The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are kicking off the 2022 NBA Playoffs with Game 1 on Saturday at 11 a.m. MDT.

In the end it’ll be about who earns four wins first in the best-of-seven series, but along the way there will be loads of different things for each team to worry about and adjustments made.

But, before the series starts, let’s discuss five things that will be highlighted in the first-round series and could be keys to either team emerging victorious.


Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic addresses fans before a against the San Antonio Spurs, Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Dallas. After suffering a left calf strain in the final game of the season, whether the Mavs star will be good to go is top of mind. | Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

Luka Doncic’s status

The Dallas Mavericks’ star player Luka Doncic suffered a left calf strain in the third quarter of the final game of the regular season. On Tuesday, Mavs head coach Jason Kidd was vague about Doncic’s status.

“We’ll prepare with him and then we’ll also prepare without him,” Kidd said. “Just like with any injury that we’ve had all season, we’ll see how his body feels each day. We all hope he’s ready to go for Game 1, but if he’s not we’ll move forward without him.”

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Kidd also noted that the team was not going to jeopardize the injury just to get Doncic on the court, but Doncic has played with and through injuries before in the postseason and his desire to play is certainly going to be a factor.


Utah forward Bojan Bogdanovic celebrates after a 3-pointer during game against the Lakersat Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 31, 2022. The Jazz sharpshooter sat out the last game of the regular season for “left calf injury maintenance.” | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Other key injuries

On the Jazz side of things the only injury that is expected to matter to a rotational player’s game status would be to Trent Forrest, who the Jazz converted to a standard NBA deal to make him playoff eligible. While Forrest wouldn’t be expected to play significant minutes in the postseason, it is worth noting that he’s not expected to be available to the team when the first round begins.

The Jazz also rested Bojan Bogdanovic in the final game of the regular season with the reason listed as “left calf maintenance.” That could have just been the Jazz looking for a valid reason to rest one of their starters but could also mean that they are hoping not to have Bogdanovic’s recent calf strain flare up.

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On the Mavericks’ side, there are a few other injuries that should be noted. First, Tim Hardaway Jr., who had surgery on his foot in February, is not expected to return for the postseason.

Additionally, forward Maxi Kleber missed the final four games of the regular season with right ankle soreness and there doesn’t seem to be certainty about Kleber’s availability for the playoffs or if he’s available what kind of minutes he’ll be able to play.


Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) runs back as guard Donovan Mitchell shouts after Clarkson hit a three late in the game against the Miami Heat at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Clarkson is one of Utah’s primary weapons off the bench and will be relied upon heavily in the playoffs. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Depth of the teams

If Kleber is unable to play for the Mavericks, their rotation takes a hit and they’ll probably rely on either smaller lineups, while having the option to use Boban Marjanovic situationally for some size.

As far as heavy rotational players for the Mavericks, we’re looking at Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, Reggie Bullock and Kleber. While the Mavericks have used Josh Green; Marquese Chriss, who signed a two-year deal with the team in January after consecutive 10-day deals; Trey Burke; and Davis Bertans at different points during the season, they are less likely to use those players unless there is an injury or there’s a significant matchup adjustment.

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The Jazz will certainly use a heavy dose of their normal starting five (Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale and Mike Conley), as well as Jordan Clarkson, Hassan Whiteside and Danuel House.

It’s not clear who Jazz coach Quin Snyder is going to deploy between Rudy Gay and Juancho Hernangomez or if he’ll use a mix of both players, and as is noted above, Forrest could be used if he is able to return from his left midfoot sprain.

I think what the Jazz have on their side as far as depth is concerned is that their bench players have been more reliable this season and are more playoff viable than they’ve been in years past. There’s also a level of versatility that the Jazz’s bench provides that the team wouldn’t have had in recent seasons.


Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gay works against Denver forward Zeke Nnaji at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. If the Jazz opt to deploy a small-ball lineup, Gay is capable of playing the five. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Small ball

While the Mavericks have the option to play small ball, it doesn’t seem like something they’re likely to do right out of the gate. The fact that their bigs are able to space the floor a bit more gives them some optionality there and Powell has played well in pick-and-roll against the Jazz this season.

The Jazz played a lot less small ball this season than anyone thought they were going to. When the Jazz signed Gay in the offseason, it was widely believed that Gay would serve as a situational small-ball five, but there’s not really been much of that.

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The Jazz could be holding their cards close to the vest, ready to send out a small lineup when the time strikes, but we’ve also seen Gobert take on matchups against Doncic and hold his own, as he’s known to do.

This will probably be one of the more chess match-like decisions that we see from these teams, and if either team decides to take this route it won’t be in the early series games.


Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (45) speaks with coach Quin Snyder during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday, April 8, 2022, in Salt Lake City. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Clutch situations

The Mavericks finished the regular season with the seventh best clutch winning percentage among all teams and sixth among playoff teams. The Jazz, well, they haven’t been great.

The Jazz have earned a reputation for giving up large leads in the second half of games and finished the regular season as one of the bottom 10 teams in clutch winning percentage.

Playoff games can often come down to the final minutes of a game or even be decided in overtime. These are all tough teams who are going to be gritting it out and laying everything on the line.

So far this season the Jazz have not performed well in those situations.