The Dallas Mavericks posted their fifth straight win, this time over the Utah Jazz, beating them 111-103 on Monday night. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Mike Conley turned out the lights for Utah, scoring 28 points.
Facing a difficult Jazz team without Kristaps Porzingis is a daunting task, but in the first quarter the Dallas Mavericks answered the call. Despite not having the best rim defense, the Mavericks connected on 5 of 12 outside shots, primarily through drive and kick opportunities. Luka Doncic scored nine, while Dorian Finney-Smith chipped in eight. The Jazz put Rudy Gobert on Finney-Smith, resulting in five attempts of three on the frame and he hit two. Although the Mavericks had a seven-at-a-time lead, a late flurry from Mike Conley brought Utah back in. Dallas was leading 27-25 after one.
The cold shot continued for the Jazz in the second and the Dallas Mavericks took advantage. Led from the outset by the ever-constant Jalen Brunson and the veteran Tim Hardaway, the Mavericks built up a lead to eight that would hold, more or less, across the frame. Rudy Gobert’s rim protection was a problem for Luka Doncic, but Jason Richardson answered the call, stepping up and hitting more 3s. Dorian Finney-Smith’s strong play continued through strong rebounds and passing, although he was unable to hit a few outside looks. Dallas took a 50-42 lead at the half.
It seemed that things could change the direction of the Jazz in the third, while little by little they were becoming leaders of Dallas. At the 7:30 mark, the Mavericks led by five, 60-55. Utah kept coming and it seemed only a matter of time before they went into a three-point flurry or because Rudy Gobert took over the defense. Only that never happened. Dallas finished the half with a 27-14 run. Luka Doncic went berserk from three point range and DFS continued to attack. Dallas leads 87-69 after three quarters.
However, the Jazz would not walk away quietly, scoring 11 points in the first two minutes. But the Mavericks kept scoring. Jalen Brunson of three, Dorian Finney-Smith of three. It was beautiful. Then things stopped for both teams. To the Mavericks, they couldn’t throw open glances, to the Jazz, they seemed trapped in quicksand. Dallas actually went four minutes without a basket. Things finally broke late for both teams, but Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson scored enough to keep Utah at bay. The Dallas Mavericks walk away with a 111-103 victory.
Dorian Finney-Smith earned the respect of the Utah Jazz
Finney-Smith’s scouting report has been the same for years – let it fire from the outside. There is a good reason for that, he is not a great shooter. In fact, on wide shots, he takes a lot of open shots from three and hits at a low rate (38.5% on wide attempts). This is not a criticism, it is what it is. Teams don’t protect you and that can have consequences.
Against the Jazz, Dorian made the difference that set the tone for everyone else’s success. His shot (5-12 from three, while scoring 23 points, the season’s high) broke the Jazz’s defensive structure. Rudy Gobert had no other choice to get to the 3-point line on a few occasions, resulting in attacks and kicks from Dorian and some shots at the basket.
I don’t know if Dorian just needs more volume as he shoots 4.6 per game, or if we are just riding the wave of Dorian shooting. It has risen again to 36% the year before this contest. However, for tonight, who cares, it was amazing and I’m glad he had such an engaging game.
The three-point shot made the difference
An obvious point, but the Jazz are among the league leaders in volume and percentage from behind the arc and shot 27% to the Mavericks’ 46% shooting bonanza. It’s time for a cliché: it’s a make or fail league.
There hasn’t been a convincing analysis yet on what really affects three-point defense for a team that I’ve seen and sometimes you’re at the end of a shooting streak. However, I will happily enjoy the Jazz missing most of the game, as Dallas has been on the hard end many times this season.
Caring for Gobert’s dives
The Mavericks did a very good job helping and recovering the defense on Rudy Gobert’s shots to the rim. The lack of three points seems to make things easier, as the Jazz rarely made Dallas call from behind the arc in later challenges, but it was great to see Maxi Kleber and Melli help and get Gobert back. There’s probably a lot more to it than how I’m putting it, but it’s one of the things that allowed the Mavericks not to fully work on rebounds as well.