The Dallas Mavericks ousted the Utah Jazz in six games (as predicted in our series preview) Thursday night with a 98-96 victory. It was an interesting series throughout. Mavericks star Luka Doncic missed three games, but his team stepped up. Utah remained healthy throughout the series but struggled mightily even though they owned the boards for the majority of the series. Dallas advances to the next round to play the Phoenix Suns while the Jazz stay home with plenty of questions to answer this offseason.
Jalen Brunson opened up the league’s eyes throughout this series. The numbers are downright amazing. First off, the Mavericks lost the first game without Doncic. He still put up 24 points, seven boards, and five assists.
Brunson then went to lead the Mavericks to two consecutive victories without Doncic. He dropped 41 points in game two then followed up with 31 points in game three.
Dallas then fell in game four in Utah with Doncic’s return. Brunson, returning to his role as second-fiddle, scored 24 points in both wins in games five and six.
Simply put, Utah had no answer for Brunson. He took complete advantage of their weak perimeter defense and feasted from the three-point line to the paint. Brunson is a free agent this coming offseason and earned a hefty bag after his performances in the first round.
Sure, Dallas lost in Doncic’s return. The team was somewhat out of sync after playing a completely different style in their first three games without him. With that being said, they still took the game to the last seconds and could’ve won if not for two Dwight Powell missed free throws down the stretch. In that loss, though, Doncic scored 30 points and grabbed 10 boards.
In a massive game five victory, Doncic scored 33 points, grabbed 13 boards, and provided five assists. In a closeout game six, to earn his first first-round series win, Doncic scored 24 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists.
The Mavericks looked impressive without Doncic, but there’s still no question that he’s the heart and soul of this team.
Just about everyone fulfilled their duties for the Mavericks. Two stellar performances came from Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock. The duo consistently played 40+ minutes per game. They played elite defense, guarding stars like Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. Their effort and minutes didn’t affect their offense, as they were always there to hit decisive shots.
Maxi Kleber struggled mightily from three to end the regular season but dazzled from deep in this series. Making eight threes in game two was astonishing. Finally, Spencer Dinwiddie struggled to an extent, but like Finney-Smith and Bullock, hit plenty of decisive shots.
Overall, the entire Jazz team besides Jordan Clarkson struggled.
Mitchell filled up the bucket in plenty of games, but a lot of those came on very poor shooting nights while taking 30+ shots per game. Finney-Smith had him rattled.
Rudy Gobert provided a presence in the paint, but hardly ever went out to the perimeter. This allowed Kleber to drain threes left and right. Gobert was essentially a non-factor on offense as the Mavericks typically had guards guarding the big man.
Bojan Bogdanovic had his moments here and there but was unable to produce offensively when given the defensive assignment on Doncic. Finally, Conley consistently disappeared in the second half of games and traveled at the end of game six to essentially end the Jazz’s season.
The Mavericks open up the second round versus the Suns on Monday. The Suns were the best regular-season team in the league and match up well with the Mavericks. In addition, Dallas has struggled against Phoenix for the last couple of seasons. A player like Deandre Ayton will cause nightmares for the Mavericks. With that being said, anything can happen with Doncic on the court.
Utah faces a summer of uncertainty. Mitchell and Gobert will see their names swirl in rumors. As will other starters like Bogdanovic and Conley. Clearly, this team isn’t good enough to make a playoff run, so they must decide if they want to move into a rebuild or tinker with the roster and remain a potential playoff team.
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