Jubilant Mavericks take credit for Jazz’s offensive woes in skirmish-marred blowout
Utah’s 3 of 30 shooting (10%) from 3-point range is the worst in NBA playoffs history, and the Mavericks say their defense was the reason why
Rudy Gobert interfered with a shot by Royce O’Neale that was on its way into the rim.
Donovan Mitchell came up with alligator arms and somehow managed to nearly miss the rim entirely on an uncontested layup, and O’Neale body-checked Luka Doncic a split-second before Bojan Bogdanovich’s 3-pointer nestled in the net, costing the Jazz even more points.
Naturally, the Dallas Mavericks credited their outstanding defense effort for helping them obliterate Utah 102-77 on Monday night at American Airlines Center and take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series with the Jazz.
“This team is special. Our defense was incredible today,” said Luka Doncic, who scored 33 points and had one major overreaction to a hard foul by Hassan Whiteside that led to a mild skirmish and was by far the most entertaining portion of the Maverick’s runaway second half.
“It is the playoffs. Everybody is excited. Tempers are (flaring), everybody is fighting for an inch. It was not a big deal. ... And so again, it is just the way playoff basketball can be at times.” — Mavericks coach Jason Kidd on the skirmish in the fourth quarter.
“I think we played our best defensive game of the series today, and nothing is finished yet,” Doncic continued.
Inept offense or stingy defense?
It was probably a combination of both, but most of the numbers say the Jazz’s breakdowns on the offensive end — particularly in the first half when they scored a season-low 36 points — had more to do with the outcome of the Game 5 laugher as much as anything else. Open shots were plentiful. The weary looking Jazz just couldn’t make them.
The Mavericks obviously beg to differ, crowing mightily in their postgame news conference about the way they held the Jazz to 77 points.
“I thought the guys did a great job defensively, and then offensively sharing the ball,” said Mavs coach Jason Kidd. “We had some great looks, they just didn’t go down. We did our part. We didn’t do anything special. We protected home. Now we gotta go back on the road and see if we can find a way to win.”
Having tied the series 2-2 with that thrilling 100-99 win in Salt Lake City two days ago, the Jazz forgot to take their legs with them to Big D. Or perhaps they never had them in the first place. Mitchell’s whiff at the rim, when the outcome was in doubt with 8:14 left in the second quarter and Utah “only” trailing 63-44, was emblematic of that.
In the first half, when they jumped out to a 52-32 lead before Jordan Clarkson — Utah’s only first-half weapon — hit a pair of buckets just before the halftime buzzer, the Mavericks had only three steals and zero blocks, signs that Utah’s offense just didn’t show up.
So while losses in games 2 and 3 could be blamed on the Jazz’s defensive woes, this one falls at the offense’s feet.
They finished shooting 3 of 30 from 3-point range (10%), the worst 3-point percentage in NBA postseason history for a team that attempted at least 25 triples, according to ESPN State & Info. It was the worst 3-point shooting night in Jazz history (with a minimum of 20 attempts).
The Jazz shot 3-of-30 (10%) on threes in Game 5.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 26, 2022
That is the worst 3-pt percentage in NBA postseason history by a team to attempt at least 25 threes.
It's also the worst 3-pt FG pct in Jazz history with a minimum of 20 3-pt FGA. pic.twitter.com/HQNHf7yQIh
“Yeah, I mean, we can’t bank on that for Game 6 (Thursday, 8 p.m. MDT, in Salt Lake City),” said Dallas guard Jalen Brunson. “Those are some pretty good numbers. But we got to give the guys credit. They were able to play really good defensively to make it difficult. But we can’t rely on that. We got to continue to get better.”
It would be hard to imagine the Jazz getting worse, even if Mitchell can’t go Thursday, the Jazz’s best offensive player having left Game 5 early with hamstring issues.
The Jazz struggled from the get-go, as Mitchell, Mike Conley and Bogdanovic missed 3-pointers on their first three possessions before Conley broke the ice with 10:15 remaining. The Jazz were 6 of 10 from the free-throw line in the first quarter, then didn’t get to the stripe in the second quarter, for whatever reason.
At one point in the first quarter, the Jazz were 4 of 17 from the field, and 0 of 7 from 3-point range.
Mitchell’s spinning 3-point play — he ended up in the crowd after the drive — cut the deficit to 18-14 and was Utah’s best play of an otherwise forgettable first quarter, perhaps even the game.
And then it got worse for the visitors.
Danuel House made Utah’s first 3-pointer with 9:50 left in the second quarter, and when Juancho Hernangomez followed with a triple of his own, it appeared the lid was off the basket.
Mitchell, Bogdanovic, Clarkson and O’Neale contributed misses from deep, and the Jazz were 2 of 17 from beyond the arc at that point. Most weren’t heavily defended.
Then came Gobert’s inexplicable dunk of an O’Neale layup that rolled around the rim and was falling in.
The Jazz went from the 6:19 mark of the second quarter to the :39 mark without scoring. Clarkson ended the drought with a driving layup, and Utah finished the half 14 of 40 (35%) from the field, 5 of 21 (23.8%) from 3-point range.
In the first half, Bogdanovic was 0 for 5, O’Neale was 0 for 3, Mitchell was 3 of 10 (0 of 5 deep), Conley and Whiteside were 1 of 4 (Whiteside missed three bunnies at the rim), and Hernangomez was 1 of 3.
Only Clarkson (5 of 8) was better than .500 in the first half. The Jazz assisted on only 4 of 14 field goals.
Dallas’ starters outscored Utah’s starters 48-18 in the first half.
O’Neale hit a 3-pointer to start the third quarter for the Jazz, but it went downhill from there, with Doncic scoring eight straight points to ensure there would be no comeback.
“Yeah, we did a good job tonight as a team, holding a great offensive team to 77 points,” said Dallas’ Dorian Finney-Smith. “If we do that, it don’t matter if we make shots or not, we give ourselves a great chance to win.”
As far as commenting on the skirmish in the fourth quarter, which came after Doncic tried to dunk on Whiteside and took a hard fall, the Mavericks said they were just protecting their teammate.
“I really just seen Luka took a bad fall, and (Whiteside) stood over him,” Finney-Smith said. “So I just ran over there. Just trying to protect my teammate. … It is playoff basketball. It was a hard foul, but you know, you gotta make sure he’s straight, that’s all.”
Brunson’s take: “I mean, (it was) our team basically backing up one of our guys. I have no problem with it. I saw what you saw.”
Kidd said he “didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t really see (what happened),” but noted that the series has been physical and chippy and that probably had something to do with it.
“It is the playoffs. Everybody is excited. Tempers are (flaring), everybody is fighting for an inch. It was not a big deal,” Kidd said. “And so again, it is just the way playoff basketball can be at times.”