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Analysis: Jazz rebound from slow first half to beat Mavericks on Christmas Day

Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points as the Utah Jazz rebounded from a lackluster first half to beat the Dallas Mavericks, 120-116, on Christmas Day at Vivint Arena.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, wearing black, attempts to score past Dallas Mavericks defenders
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, center, attempts to score past Dallas Mavericks defenders during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz rebounded from a lackluster first half to beat the Dallas Mavericks, 120-116, on Christmas Day at Vivint Arena.

High Notes

  • A Jordan Clarkson defensive play in the third quarter infused the Jazz and the crowd with energy and was a turning point in the game. To that point, the Jazz looked like the lesser team for much of the game but Clarkson digging in on the defensive end lit a fire under the Jazz. He continued to be crucial in the fourth on both ends of the floor and despite a pretty mediocre shooting night from Clarkson, he had his hands all over the rest of the game finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
    “JC has been amazing. His growth as a player this year and I think his maturity, the way he is now is looking to make the right plays, looking for his teammates. He’s been great for us and the second unit now is — because JC is doing that — the balance offensively is amazing.” — Jazz center Rudy Gobert
  • Donovan Mitchell did not have his shot on Saturday but he was pretty incredible finding ways to score and doing so through a lot of traffic. He finished with a game-high 33 points and went 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
  • At the end of the third quarter Quin Snyder subbed in Royce O’Neale for a single defensive possession. O’Neale came onto the court, immediately drew an offensive foul on the Mavericks and then walked off. That’s efficiency.
  • The Jazz once again showed that they can turn it on and crack down when need be and that’s a good thing, but as we’ll discuss below, how they get to that point sometimes is becoming concerning.

Low Notes

  • Early in the game Mitchell made a beautiful spin move to the basket and converted on an and-1 play. But during the play Mitchell looked like he twisted his ankle and came away from the scene wincing and walking a little bit gingerly. Throughout the game there were a couple of times where he seemed to be favoring his right foot, and he was experiencing tightness in his back early in the game, but he also made quite a few athletic plays including a really emphatic dunk. I don’t think that Mitchell is seriously hurt, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on, especially considering that the Jazz are about to head into one of the toughest stretches of their schedule.
  • The officiating crew on Saturday was off their game. I won’t say that the crew had anything to do with the outcome of the game because I rarely think that’s the case and especially considering the fact that the crew was bad for both the Jazz and the Mavericks. And, there really is nothing that will change or that can be done to make what happened on Saturday any better, but it is just worth noting that the officials missed a ton of calls for both teams, made the wrong call quite a few times and at one point even called a foul when there was so clearly nothing that every player involved, on both teams, started to walk away because they had no idea what the call could have even been.

Flat Notes

  • I had to consult the Mavericks roster a few times on Saturday night just to make sure I knew who was on the team. The recent surge of players, coaches and staffers who are in the league’s health and safety protocol for COVID-19 has left the Mavericks with a decimated roster. This is just how it’s going to be from now on.
  • I’ve been giving the Jazz the benefit of the doubt recently when they’ve given up double-digit leads to lesser teams and had cold shooting nights. But, the Mavericks came into Utah on Saturday without many of their best players, including Luka Doncic, and fielded a team with a lot of G League guys and players on 10-day or hardship contracts and the Jazz looked sloppy and outworked for too much of the game. Despite officiating and despite the way that guys will play when they’re possibly playing for their NBA lives, the Jazz are supposed to be a far superior team and they just didn’t look like it for most of the game.
    “The frantic part of it was just us fouling, and I thought that really hurt us, particularly in the first quarter, because it slows the game down. It allows them to change defenses and then we’re not able to play it at a pace that we want.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder