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

The Dallas Mavericks dropped to the Utah Jazz in the first game of their first round today, losing at home 99-93. Jazz was led by Donovan Mitchell’s 32 points. Jalen Brunson followed the Mavericks with 24 points.

At the start of the 2022 playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks were involved in a tipping battle with the Utah Jazz. After starting the cold like ice from the floor, Dallas coupled on a series of curves through a 17-4 run that put the Mavericks on top. Utah came back, however, as the Jazz continued to attack the edge relentlessly. After a quarter, the Mavericks were ahead 23-20.

The Mavericks managed to extend their lead to eight early in the quarter, but the Jazz came back again to close the lead to 32-30 through Jordan Clarkson’s edge attack. After a timeout, Dallas scored on a Davis Bertans three, and a Reggie Bullock quick break lay in to go back with seven. But the Maverick offense would be icy cold again, with sloppy possessions bound by overdribbling, and the Jazz would go on a 15-6 run led by Bojan Bogdanovic to close out the half. Dallas went into the locker room down 45-43.

Donovan Mitchell came out shooting for Utah after a poor first half. He drew an obvious mistake on a made lay-in to take a five-point lead four minutes inside the neighborhood. The Jazz kept scoring while Dallas could not hit a shot, leading by as many as 12 points late in the quarter. A late climb led by Spencer Dinwiddie helped close the gap somewhat, but the Mavericks were trailing 73-65 en route to the final frame.

Despite a series of early Maverick errors, the Jazz beat Dallas down the first half of the quarter, increasing the lead to 11 halves through the frame due to good ball movement and good shooting. The Mavericks kept within striking distance by making mistakes and hitting free kicks. Dallas chipped and chipped, came to the line again and again and pulled within two points after a Reggie Bullock three from Dorian Finney-Smith. A Maxi Kleber threes pulled the Mavericks inside one at the 2:12 mark, but they could not take the lead. After a couple of missed shots and some offenses to extend the game, Dallas fell 99-93.

With Luka Doncic out, most of the scoring and playmaking were to go to these two, but they were not quite up to the task. They scored 36 points on 39 shots in total (they only made 15), which is very ineffective. The two came to the line a ton and took a total of 22 free throws for Dallas, Spencer in particular missed all six of his 16 attempts (Brunson missed one). In a match decided by six points, they really hurt.

Defensively, both must also be better. Brunson was often shaken by the bigger Bogdanovic, which happens, but still really hurts the Mavericks. Dinwiddie was nothing short of awful in defense, between some bad gambles and bad boxing he made too many mistakes in a role that demands a lot of him at both ends.

Colors me more than a little confused that the offensive game plan looked like a Luka Doncic-led team remarkably. Both Brunson and Dinwiddie had consumption rates of 34% or higher and they gave us the aforementioned ineffective offensive play. With some of the players Dallas has, I was amazed at how much of the game at the offensive end was about dribbling the ball for 20+ seconds and getting a hard shot off.

Some of it is the presence of Rudy Gobert, but one would think Dallas could try to find a few more shots for Dorian Finney-Smith, who only took four shots in her first 35+ minutes of play. The bottom line is that the Dallas Mavericks need more offensive creativity if they are to take game two. It helped to get to the line as often as they did, but it is not a regular plan for success with this group of players.

One of the many problems with losing Luka Doncic is that he is a hell of a rebounder and the team needs to do a better job with limited second chances. Jazz is a very good offensive rebound team, and they proved it again today, snatching 13. But the problem went far beyond Rudy Gobert or Hassan Whiteside; other jazz players grabbed eight of these boards, and the battle for 20-7 second chance points was one of, if not the, crucial factor in the game.

As a team, Dallas was only 9 of 32 from three. But if we move past the primary ball dealers (Brunson and Dinwiddie were only 1 out of 7), Dallas needs one player more beyond Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith to take and hit threes. Josh Green got his chance tonight but missed all four and his shot form looked very different than in the season. Davis Bertans hit one of 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 may have to take two or three more and he has to hit them. Most of these looks are wide open, and if Dallas is to have a chance, they need to shoot better.

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