4 thoughts after the Dallas Mavericks fall to the Utah Jazz, 99-93

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their first-round series today, losing at home 99-93. The Jazz were led by 32 points from Donovan Mitchell. Jalen Brunson led the Mavericks with 24 points.

The opening frame of the 2022 playoffs saw the Dallas Mavericks engage in a seesaw battle with the Utah Jazz. After starting icy cold from the floor, Dallas connected on a number of hoops thanks to a 17-4 run that put the Mavericks on top. Utah rallied, however, as the Jazz continued to attack the rim relentlessly. After one quarter, the Mavericks found themselves ahead 23-20.

The Mavericks managed to extend their lead to eight early in the quarter, but the Jazz rallied to cut the lead to 32-30 thanks to rim attacks from Jordan Clarkson. After a timeout, Dallas scored on a three from Davis Bertans and a quick break from Reggie Bullock set in to go up a seven. But the Maverick offense would turn icy again, with sloppy possessions bogged down by excessive dribbling and the Jazz would go on a 15-6 run led by Bojan Bogdanovic to close the half. Dallas entered the locker room with a 45-43 lead.

Donovan Mitchell came out shooting for Utah after a poor first half. He fired a flagrant foul on a throw-in to take a five-point lead four minutes into the quarter. The Jazz continued to score while Dallas couldn’t hit a shot and led up to 12 points late in the quarter. A late push led by Spencer Dinwiddie helped close the gap, but the Mavericks trailed 73-65 going into the final frame.

Despite a number of early fouls from Maverick, the Jazz crushed Dallas in the first half of the quarter, increasing the lead to 11 halfway through the frame on good ball movement and shooting. The Mavericks stayed within striking distance shooting fouls and hitting free throws. Dallas chipped and chipped, reaching the line again and again and shot within two after a Reggie Bullock three from Dorian Finney-Smith. A Maxi Kleber three pulled the Mavericks within one at 2:12 but they couldn’t take the lead. After a few missed shots and a few fouls to extend the game, Dallas fell 99-93.

With Luka Doncic out, most of the scoring and play had to fall to these two, but they weren’t quite up to the task. They scored 36 points on 39 shots combined (they only made 15), which is very inefficient. Both hit the one-ton line, earning 22 free throws combined for Dallas, Spencer in particular missing six of his 16 attempts (Brunson missed one). In a game decided by six points, those really hurt.

Defensively, both must also be better. Brunson was often roasted by the bigger Bogdanovic, which happens, but still really hurt the Mavericks. Dinwiddie was just awful in defense, between a few bad bets and bad boxing he made too many mistakes in a role that demands a lot from both sides.

Color me more than a little confused that the attacking game plan looked remarkably like a team led by Luka Doncic. Both Brunson and Dinwiddie had usage rates of 34% or higher and they gave us the aforementioned ineffective offensive play. With some of the Dallas players, I was surprised at how much of this offensive game came down to dribbling the ball for over 20 seconds and getting a tough shot.

Part of that is the presence of Rudy Gobert, but you’d think Dallas could try to find a few more shots for Dorian Finney-Smith who took just four shots in his first 35 minutes. line, the Dallas Mavericks need more offensive creativity if they want to win Game 2. Getting to the line as often as they did has helped, but it’s not a regular game plan to be successful with this group of players.

One of the many issues with losing Luka Doncic is that he’s a hell of a rebounder and the team needs to do a better job with limited second chances. The Jazz are a very good offensive rebounding team and they proved it again today by capturing 13. But the problem went far beyond Rudy Gobert or Hassan Whiteside; other Jazz players grabbed eight of those boards and the 20-7 second chance point battle was one of, if not the deciding factor in the game.

As a team, Dallas was just 9 of 32 from three. But if we get past the leading ballhandlers (Brunson and Dinwiddie were just 1 of 7), Dallas needs one more player beyond Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith to take and hit three. Josh Green had his chance tonight but missed all four and his shooting form was very different than this season. Davis Bertans hit one of the three and maybe Dallas should try to find him a few more looks. It was good to see Maxi Kleber two out of five but with how much he plays he might have to take two or three more and he has to hit them. Most of those looks are wide open, and if Dallas is going to have a chance, they need to shoot better.

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