The Dallas Mavericks took a 2-1 series lead Thursday night, defeating the Utah Jazz on the road 126-118. Jalen Brunson once again led Dallas in a masterful performance, scoring 31 points and dishing five assists. Donovan Michell scored 32 in defeat.
The opening minutes of game three were filled with many, many misses from both teams with the exception of Jalen Brunson, who scored six early. Maxi Kleber came off the bench to give Dallas three more threes and Josh Green hit two as well help the Mavericks hold off the Utah offense. Spectacular Dallas (a chase down block from Davis Bertans!) defense helped give the Mavericks a 27-20 lead after one quarter.
Somehow the Mavericks extended their lead with a line up of Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Green, Dorian Finney-Smith, Davis Bertans, and Trey Burke, getting ahead by as many as 15 early in the quarter. Brunson and Kleber helped keep Dallas ahead until Brunson got hurt on an uncalled shot from behind by Royce O’Neal. Utah tried to rally again and again but every time there was an answer, with Reggie Bullock, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Davis Bertans coming up with key makes. Dallas entered halftime up 68-51.
Thankfully, Jalen Brunson was able to return after the half. Utah tried to make a dent in the Dallas lead, but the Mavericks just kept coming. Spencer Dinwiddie briefly shook his shooting slump with an incredible dunk on Rudy Gobert. With Dallas up 17, Utah went small (so no Rudy Gobert) in an attempt to get back into the game and slowly whittled the lead all the way down to single digits. Entering the fourth quarter, the Mavericks found themselves up just six, 97-91.
Sloppy basketball opened the fourth, with lots of missed shots. But with no true big men (Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber had five fouls) on the floor for either team, the rim attacks were relentless. Rudy Gobert re-entered play finally and the Jazz cut the Dallas lead all the way to one before Spencer Dinwiddie delivered two driving lay ups. After a Jazz timeout, Jalen Brunson went on a scoring spree extends the Dallas lead to 9. Every time Utah would find a score, Dallas would answer; both Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie with huge threes late. The Jazz did not have enough time to stage a comeback and the Dallas Mavericks took a 2-1 lead over Utah, winning 126-118
Now, some thoughts:
It took seeing to believe it, but the much (and fairly) maligned bench guys came up huge in a road game of all things against Utah. Josh Green played out of his mind, finally connecting on a three and that helped him gain the confidence to hit a few more. He finished with 12 points, three boards, and six assists as he was a key ball-mover in the first half as the Maverick coaching staff used him in ways to facilitate that the Jazz hadn’t seen before. Davis Bertans also answered the call, with 15 points on 4 of 7 three point shooting. Then, of course we have Maxi Kleber, who was once again incandescent from three, hitting four of five and playing simply outstanding defense.
With the lone exception of letting Jalen Brunson wander on the floor hurt for a possession too long (use a timeout!), Coach Jason Kidd and company were in their bag. Once again, they put Jalen Brunson in a position to succeed, but with the minutes totals piling up, Kidd tried some unorthodox line ups. It boggles the mind that they ran with the previously mentioned line up of Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Green, Dorian Finney-Smith, Davis Bertans, and Trey Burke to start the second. What’s even crazier is that the Mavericks managed to go up by even more AFTER Brunson was hurt. Granted, you can also lean on Dallas shot making, but confidence is also instilled by the coach. What an incredible game.
If there’s one thing I’ll be wondering for the next day and a half, it’s whether the Jazz have found something by getting Rudy Gobert out of the game and letting Donovan Mitchell play like 2006 Finals Dwyane Wade. The Jazz closed that third quarter extremely hard, but Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber were in foul trouble, so I may be reading into things too much.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.