If you missed the Utah Jazz playing the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, I’m really sorry. You missed the most exciting game of the season, and I say that for three reasons.

First, the Jazz’s 114-109 win over the Mavericks and whatever happens between these two teams when they meet again in Dallas on March 7 and 27 could end up being a preview of what lies ahead for the Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs.

The energy of the game from beginning to end had the feel of a postseason matchup. There were no possessions with players sleepwalking through plays or where it felt like either team relaxed.

While the Jazz sit at fourth in the Western Conference standings, four games behind the third-place Memphis Grizzlies, the Mavericks are nipping at the Jazz’s heels, a game and a half behind the Jazz and a game and a half ahead of the sixth-place Denver Nuggets.

The most likely outcome is that the Jazz and Mavericks, no matter who finishes in fourth or fifth, will face each other when the postseason begins.

Analysis: Jazz beat Mavericks in possible playoff preview

The second reason this was the most exciting game of the season is that the Jazz had the kind of performance from the whole team that they’re going to need in the postseason, but even more important than anything any of their role players did was what Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert showed.

“That was a significant game for us,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said, before noting that the specific performances from Mitchell and Gobert epitomized what they’re capable of and what the Jazz will need from them.

Mitchell finished the game with a career-high tying seven 3-pointers made, racked up 33 points and was engaged on the defensive end.

He was deliberate in cleaning up mistakes as the game went along, was encouraging to teammates when calls weren’t going their way and was intentional with his criticism.

He was a leader.

Gobert was in all the right places at the right times totaling 14 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks. He created space and sprinted from baseline to baseline, set hard screens and picked his moments to punish the defense.

“We did our job,” Mitchell said. “Execution-wise everyone else did a phenomenal job, but ultimately it’s going to come down to us two, and he did what he was supposed to do on both ends and so did I.”

The third reason this game ranks higher than others this season is because of the chess match between the teams that resulted in a showdown for the final seven minutes of the contest between Gobert and Luka Doncic.

It was a calculated move from both teams. The Mavericks wanted to get Doncic with the ball in his hands against Gobert on the perimeter, seeing it as a mismatch, and the Jazz wanted their three-time Defensive Player of the Year on Doncic in the closing minutes.

“That’s to our advantage,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “For a big to be out on the perimeter, we believe that’s to our advantage to have Luka with the ball. He’s going to dictate what he gets.”

But what Doncic got was all 7-foot-1 of Gobert at his absolute finest.

The first possession in the video above is the perfect example of what the Jazz want from everyone when an opposing team tries to space the floor and beat the Jazz with Gobert on the perimeter.

Gobert is glued to Doncic and never lets him get enough room to hit the step-back jumper that he wants and covers him all the way down to the baseline.

In the second possession, Gobert forces Doncic off the ball, and then once Doncic is out of the play, Gobert helps in the paint and blocks the second action shot at the rim.

The possession that starts at the :50 mark in the video doesn’t involve Gobert on Doncic, but it’s just another example of how effective Gobert can be when he’s focused on what’s happening on each possession.

The Mavericks pull Gobert deep into the paint with a drive from Jalen Brunson, leaving Maxi Kleber open beyond the arc to get the swing pass from Doncic. But Gobert uses just three steps to completely cover the distance and close out on Kleber.

Even when Doncic was able to get open, and even when there were fouls that weren’t called or times when the Jazz made mistakes, they trusted Gobert and made sure they were all in good position.

“(The Mavericks) wanted that isolation, so we just trusted in big fella and stayed home,” Mitchell said. “He was able to force (Doncic) into tough shots, and when he did pass the ball, we were able to close out on our guys.”

The battle between Gobert and Doncic stole the show on Friday night, but it was just a part of what ended up being the most complete and significant win for the Jazz to this point in the 2021-22 season.

The Jazz are going to have two more chances to see the Mavericks before the season ends and there will certainly be adjustments made from both teams, but at least the Jazz have a blueprint to work from — one that might end up being incredibly valuable when the regular season closes and it’s time to prepare for the first round of playoff basketball.