A clean look at the very end — a chance for the Utah Jazz to win and tie the series.

The catch, the the pump-fake — all of the hope for this Jazz team flying through the air with a single shot.

The ball hits the back of the rim — the air and joy withdraws from the building.

Despite only 4.3 seconds being left in the game, there seemed to be so much time. Time to absorb the enormity of the moment, and time to realize that this could be the end of an era. 

Bojan Bogdanovic has hit two game-winners in his time with the Utah Jazz. He had arguably been the Jazz’s best player through the first four games of the first-round playoff series. He’s a career 39.2% 3-point shooter. 

There’s not a player on the Jazz that doesn’t trust Bogdanovic with the ball in his hands beyond the arc in the final moments of a game. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder drew up a final play that set up Bogdanovic to hit a 3 that would win the game. The Jazz executed the play perfectly, Bogdanovic put up the shot and…

“No better guy to have take that shot,” Snyder said. “Everybody in the locker room would want him to have that shot at that point in time.”

When it was all said and done, the shot didn’t go in and a Dallas team that’s been trying for years to get over the hump and prove that they are better than their recent playoff exits, walked out of Vivint Arena on Thursday night with smiles on their faces.

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz, 98-96, earning their first playoff series victory since the Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011.

Meanwhile, a team that had started out the year saying that they had championship aspirations ended up with another first-round exit under their belt and are walking into an offseason of uncertainty.

This Utah Jazz team, this core group endured more pressure and had more expectations than any other year that they’d been together and they didn’t rise to the challenge.

“I don’t think we’ve had this amount of pressure on us as a group,” Donovan Mitchell said. “That’s a whole different element and it’s the first time I’ve experienced that in my career.”

The truth is that this game didn’t come down to that one shot from Bogdanovic. There were missteps throughout the night that put the Jazz in position to need a buzzer-beating shot to win the game. In the games before Thursday night the Jazz gave up looks and were unable to deal with the Mavericks pressure and those failures put them in a Game 6 elimination situation. And, this whole season, the Jazz failed to prove that they were a consistent and cohesive group that was ready for a deep postseason run.

Last year the Jazz finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed and flamed out in the playoffs as injuries mounted. This year the Jazz made sure they stayed in the playoff picture but put less emphasis on the regular season, but didn’t seem as connected when it came time for postseason basketball.

“I don’t think we’ve had this amount of pressure on us as a group. That’s a whole different animal and it’s the first time I’ve experienced that in my career.” — Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell

But, the Jazz entered the playoffs healthy, which means that this team can be evaluated in a way that it hasn’t before. While previous iterations of this team have always had an excuse of key injuries being in the way of knowing how good they could be or how far they could go, this time they fell short without anything holding them back.

That sets up an offseason in which the Jazz front office will have to make more tough decisions than it’s had to in the previous few years.

Jazz ownership is going to have to decide if this is the front office group that they want to move forward with. Jazz brass is going to have to decide if Snyder is the coach they want coaching next season. Snyder is going to have to decide if he wants to coach this team, no matter how it looks moving forward. And together, the organization has to choose how they want to move forward as far as the roster is concerned.

Another third-quarter letdown dooms Jazz as Mavericks eliminate Utah from playoffs in Game 6 of tight series
3 keys in the Utah Jazz’s 98-96 season-ending loss to the Dallas Mavericks

Losing in the first round means that it would be very unlikely that this team returns next season as constructed and even if most of the parts are still here when the 2022-23 season begins, there will probably be more moves made before the trade deadline.

That’s what was riding on that shot, on this series, on these playoffs. Had the Jazz been able to force a Game 7, advance to next round and played competitively or even gotten to the Western Conference Finals, there would have been more reason to believe that this team could run it back one more time.

But, the Jazz were not good enough, and now that change is on the horizon, their window for greatness is likely closed.