Jazz look to ‘respond, not overreact,’ after disappointing defensive effort in Game 2
Having tied the series 1-1 without injured superstar Luka Doncic, Dallas arrives in Salt Lake City for Game 3 Thursday with momentum on its side
While acknowledging that their on-ball guarding and defensive rotations were awful in their Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night at America Airlines Center, the Utah Jazz vowed to not make too much out of one lackluster performance.
Now is not the time to overreact, they said, as the series shifts to Salt Lake City and Vivint Arena for Game 3 on Thursday. Although the first-round series is tied 1-1, Dallas seemingly seized momentum by drilling 22 3-pointers (on 47 attempts) and carving up Utah’s almost nonexistent perimeter defense Monday in a game eerily similar to the one that ended the Jazz’s season last year, Game 6 vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.
Only Utah didn’t blow a 25-point lead this time. The game was tight throughout; Utah’s 57-48 lead when Bojan Bogdanovic made a bucket to start the third quarter was the largest advantage any team had.
“Again, there is a difference between overreacting and responding, and we need to respond. We have been in these situations before over the course of the entire season, and that’s something we got to dig in and execute better on.” — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder
The lasting memory of Game 2 for Jazz fans will be how Dallas’ 6-foot-10 Maxi Kleber, a power forward from Germany, time and again was left open in the corner to drill 3-pointers. Or they will have nightmares of guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson blowing by step-slow Jazz guards to set their teammates up for open shots, particularly 3-pointers.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, 17 of the Mavericks made 3s were uncontested, the most by any team in the NBA playoffs the past 10 years. Seven of Kleber’s eight made triples were left unguarded, according to a tweet by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
The Jazz’s response to the meltdown was stoic; coach Quin Snyder, center Rudy Gobert and guards Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson all pretty much said the same thing when they met with reporters after the game — the defense was unacceptable, but not something that can’t be fixed.
“Again, there is a difference between overreacting and responding, and we need to respond,” Snyder said. “We have been in these situations before over the course of the entire season, and that’s something we got to dig in and execute better on.”
Tuesday was a travel day, so no Jazz players or coaches were made available to the media. It most likely included a lot of film watching, although Snyder stressed that the Mavericks’ five-out spread tactics Monday didn’t take anyone by surprise.
The coach and Mitchell also knew Brunson was a more-than-capable ballhandler, scorer and distributor in Luka Doncic’s absence, and the former Villanova star proved it. The 6-1 guard scored a career-high 41 points, after entering the game with a 16.3 scoring average.
“I just played my game, tried to be aggressive, tried to make plays,” Brunson said. “We needed this win. These (Dallas) fans needed a home playoff win, man.”
Could a road playoff win be next? Obviously, a lot depends on whether Doncic (left calf strain) is available. But the Mavs proved to themselves and the Jazz that they can win without their franchise player, a bolt of confidence that can’t be discounted.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Tuesday afternoon that there is “optimism” among the Mavericks that Doncic could return for Game 3 Thursday or Game 4 Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Speaking of confidence and mojo, the defense-less loss didn’t seem to nick the Jazz’s belief that they will be OK.
“I mean, we know our strengths. That’s what matters. We know our strengths and we know the things that we gotta do better,” said Gobert. “That’s what the playoffs are about. They made their adjustment. We will make our adjustments, and I think overall we will be better, too.”
Having finished third in the voting for NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, Gobert was put in awkward spots the entire game because Mitchell, Clarkson and Mike Conley simply couldn’t stay in front of Brunson and Dinwiddie. When Gobert was forced to help, Kleber and company got wide-open looks.
“We just have to embrace defense, all of us,” Gobert said. “And we gotta understand that we can guard any kind of lineup (even small ones). We have done it. Some games we struggle. Some games we’ve done it successfully. So we gotta be who we are.”
In other words, don’t overreact.
“It is a long series. We wish, two (wins in Dallas) would have been great. But one is good, and it is now about how we are going to adjust, how we are going to get better from this. It is a marathon. As long as we keep the right mindset, getting better game after game, we will be in good shape.”
Sources: There’s optimism Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic will return for Game 3 (Thursday) or Game 4 (Saturday) vs. Jazz. The calf strain that Doncic suffered on April 10 is improving and workouts over next two days could determine comeback timing.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 19, 2022
While the Jazz’s defensive ineptitude garnered headlines Monday, lost in the frustration was how Utah’s offense was just average for the second-straight playoff game. Utah is averaging 101.5 points in the playoffs after averaging 113.8 during the regular season. It is averaging nine 3-pointers per game in the postseason, after making 14.7 in the regular season.
“I think they’ve been running us off the (3-point) line,” Clarkson said. “Man, they are just doing a good job right now. But when we get those, I think (we are) going to make them, knock them in. In terms of that, I don’t think (the problem) was the offense for us right now.”
Then again, with the way the Jazz are defending, the bar is pretty low.