Nervous energy has cloaked Utah Jazz fans at Vivint Arena. They have been worried about giving in and getting their hopes up — understandably so.
But pretty early on in the Jazz’s Game 4 win over the Dallas Mavericks, the home crowd had no choice but to show their appreciation to the player on the court that was giving it everything he had.
The crowd noise grew to a classic playoff din, not because of a highlight dunk or a timely 3-pointer. It wasn’t a Rudy Gobert block or a Donovan Mitchell step-back. It was Bojan Bogdanovic, playing defense, picking up the Mavericks’ best offensive players baseline to baseline.
Chants of “Bo-gey, Bo-gey” rang throughout the arena as Bogdanovic worked for 94 feet over and over against Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson.
“When you’ve got a guy like him making that commitment that early in the game, and he didn’t tell us, he just kind of went out there and did it. You don’t want to let that person down,” Mitchell said after the game. “That intensity really sparked the whole game. The crowd felt it, we felt it.”
Through the first three games of this playoff series, the Jazz had come up short against the Mavs’ lead ball handlers. Brunson had torched the Jazz for 96 points through the first three games and with Doncic making his series debut the Jazz were going to have their hands full.
At this point it shouldn’t be surprising when Bogdanovic breaks out his defensive chops in the NBA playoffs. He’s had lockdown moments against the likes of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard over the years.
The surprise wasn’t so much that Bogdanovic was guarding Doncic or Brunson, it was that he was guarding both of them and that he was picking them up full court in the first quarter, and never let up.
When Jazz head coach Quin Snyder assigned the top defensive tasks to Bogdanovic, there was no doubt that he would throw himself into it, but Bogdanovic went the extra mile and it provided a defensive inspiration for the rest of the Jazz.
“He set the tone,” Gobert said of his teammate. “Everyone looks at Bogey and is like, ‘Bogey is doing it, why am I not doing it?’ And then everyone started doing it. It’s contagious. Sometimes that’s all it takes to spark something.”
Brunson had already proved to be too much, too fast, too strong for some of the Jazz’s other defenders but Bogdanovic wasn’t willing to get beat. Then when it was Doncic, one of the best offensive players in the league, standing in front of Bogdanovic, he didn’t change his approach at all.
“I wanted to guard their best players,” Bogdanovic said. “They put me on Doncic and I tried to pressure him full court and bother him.”
The Jazz were facing the possibility of being down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and instead tied up the series, 2-2.
There were multiple different standout moments and performances in Game 4, including Jordan Clarkson’s team-leading 25 points off the bench and the game-winning offensive play from Mitchell to Gobert. But the Jazz were put in a position to win because of the early defensive commitment from Bogdanovic.
“We defended to win tonight,” Snyder said of his team. “And I can’t say enough about Bojan and his competitiveness. I thought that raised everybody’s level.”