The Dallas Mavericks are in the conference semifinals for the first time since 2011. Head coach Jason Kidd sees parallels to the championship-winning team from that time, in part because the Mavs win games when they are not the best.
It was a nerve-wracking fight in the end, but how and why did not matter to Mavs. “It was a bad match,” Luka Doncic said, making no mistake. In Game 6 and throughout the series, the Texans were clearly the better team, and yet it could have ended very differently several times.
There was Mike Conley’s step error (was it really one?) Five seconds before the end after Rudy Gobert played a terrific defense against Doncic and of course there were Bojan Bogdanovic’s completely open three points (career: 39 percent from Downtown) with the Siren. just to clap in the ring. It would not have been the first match winner of the otherwise accurate Croatian.
“My heart stopped,” Doncic said afterwards. “The throw felt like it was in the air for 15 seconds (: ..) Usually he does not forgive many such attempts.” He did, though, and the Mavs got a hard-fought 98-96 victory in Salt Lake City.
“When he missed, I took a deep breath,” admitted Jalen Brunson, who left the door open for Jazz after his missed free throw. “It was a good shot for him.” Taking a deep breath is the right keyword, for Jazz seemed to have a little more in mind in the end.
Dallas Mavericks: Small Ball turns the shot
Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith played again over 44 minutes, Doncic also played as much as last February (42 minutes) and did not get a break at all in the second half. The Slovenian looked visibly tired in the final minutes, hitting only one of his six shots in the fourth quarter, but the superstar served the open shooters on the perimeter three times.
This also made the difference. In the first half, the three did not fall, but after the change, they fell. 14 of 25 triples went through the trap, while Utah remained cold from the outside as in Game 5. In the fourth quarter, only Bogdanovic hit a three, otherwise it rained bricks again (1/10).
It played into the hands of the Mavs, who had already defended much better in this series. 35 distance attempts for the Jazz will not have tasted head coach Jason Kidd, but Utah failed again in that game and had no response to the Mavs’ little ball with Finney-Smith on five, especially in the third quarter.
“We controlled the boards at this stage and thus made up the deficit,” Kidd summed it up appropriately. Utah still led by 12 points at the break, after which Dallas screwed up the three-guard lineup with Spencer Dinwiddie for Dwight Powell. Eight of twelve threes were inside, the Jazz scored just 6 points in the zone that quarter and caught only one offensive rebound.
Dallas Mavericks: Team chemistry is right
Those twelve minutes showed what Dallas is capable of, so not only will the Jazz have trouble with the Kidd team. “We played at pace and that’s exactly what we have to keep up with,” said Doncic, who was not only strong offensively at this stage.
Rarely has the 23-year-old been so engaged on the other side of the pitch. For example here, when he remained in play on the drive against the much faster Jordan Clarkson and forced a missed lay-up.
But it was not a one-man show by the Slovenian. Brunson hit the crucial three in crunch time, Reggie Bullock, Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber were worn defensively and Dinwiddie also had another good day. “It’s a special group,” said the guard, who has experienced very different situations in Brooklyn and Washington. “From one to 15, everyone likes each other. It doesn’t happen often.”
Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd draws comparisons to 2011
This mix has now given the Mavs their first semi-final appearance since 2011 – despite Doncic’s absence in the first three games. Few would have thought it was possible before the series.
Therefore, Kidd even drew parallels to the championship year, where he still laced up his sneakers and fed Dirk Nowitzki passes. “A lot of people at the time thought we were going out in the first round. I think we were in a similar situation this year.”
At the time, the Portland Trail Blazers were beaten 4-2, and 11 years ago, the Mavs won the series in a close game 6, where they were 12 points behind in the second quarter.
This year’s edition of Mavs, however, is not yet satisfied with what has been achieved. Finney-Smith reported from the locker room that part of the video analysis was already taking place there, and it was broken down how Bogdanovic’s last throw could have been better defended. “They should not have had such an open cast,” DFS remarked.
Dallas Mavericks: Now the Phoenix Suns are waiting
Eventually things went well against the Jazz, but now another caliber awaits the Mavs. The best team in the league: Phoenix. Since Chris Paul’s arrival at the Suns, Dallas has been waiting for a win against the Arizona franchise (0-6), the last time Texas won against the nemesis was in November 2019.
Nevertheless, the first healthy tones could already be heard from the Mavs camp with regard to the second round. “We expected a win today and are ready for Phoenix. We’ll have to make it as difficult as possible for Chris Paul in the fourth quarter in particular,” Finney-Smith looked a little ahead.
Mavs still has nothing to lose in this series. Phoenix has been a winning machine throughout the season, and star Devin Booker is back after sustaining a hamstring injury. Suns are significantly more stable than Jazz, they will mercilessly punish weak phases of Mavs.
With the first league win in eleven years, however, the pressure is off for Dallas, especially for Doncic, who was finally able to win his first playoff series in the third attempt. The three-day break will do the Slovenian good, who will probably need more of him against the Suns for the Mavs to have a chance against the top seed. “We’re not fancy and we do not have big names,” Kidd said understated. “Luka obviously gets the most attention, but we really believe in our team and that was what helped us win this series.”
Mavericks vs. Jazz: The series at a glance
|1||April 16||at 19||Dallas Mavericks||Utah Jazz||93:99|
|2||April 19th||02.30||Dallas Mavericks||Utah Jazz||110: 104|
|3||April 22||3 o’clock||Utah Jazz||Dallas Mavericks||116: 124|
|4||23rd April||22:30||Utah Jazz||Dallas Mavericks||100: 99|
|5||April 26||3.30||Dallas Mavericks||Utah Jazz||102: 77|
|6||April 29||4 o’clock||Utah Jazz||Dallas Mavericks||96:98|