Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes the ball as Utah Jazz ahead Royce O’Neale, again proper, and middle Rudy Gobert (27) defend in the course of the first half of an NBA basketball sport Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Salt Lake Metropolis. (Rick Bowmer, Related Press)
Estimated learn time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Forward of Friday’s sport, each Dallas and Utah downplayed the significance of the actual matchup.
Jazz middle Rudy Gobert mentioned it was too early to have a look at the standings, and Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd mentioned it was merely “considered one of 82.”
That was what they mentioned, however how they performed instructed a special story.
Friday’s potential first-round matchup proved worthy of a playoff sport in its personal proper — an insanely well-played sport that featured a chess match not often seen within the common season. There have been radically completely different methods deployed, large performances and clutch photographs down the stretch.
Donovan Mitchell had 33 factors, Bojan Bogdanovic hit an enormous 3-pointer late within the sport and Rudy Gobert’s late protection on Luka Doncic was very good because the Jazz returned from the All-Star break with a 114-109 victory over Dallas at Vivint Area.
As quickly as Jazz coach Quin Snyder sat down for his postgame press convention, he mentioned: “That was a big sport for us.”
The significance within the standings was apparent.
With the win, the Jazz improved to 37-22 and now have a 2.5 sport lead over Dallas (35-25) for the fourth spot within the West. However there was a cause nobody wished to make that too large of a deal: A win gave the Jazz some respiration room for home-court benefit, however that wasn’t why the Jazz have been so happy with the win.
This was a win towards a full-strength workforce with among the finest offensive skills within the sport. It was simply the kind of sport the Jazz have struggled to win this yr. Add on the playoff implications and it felt greater than only a easy sport.
When Gobert locked down Doncic with 6:40 left within the sport and compelled a missed shot, he acquired a standing ovation from the gang. It was uncommon anybody within the enviornment sat down from there on out. That was the environment on Friday: two groups with electrical superstars battling it out.
“It felt actually good,” Mitchell mentioned. “Whenever you slender it down, we did what we have been presupposed to do. That is how we have to take a look at it.”
Doncic had 23 factors and 11 assists for the Mavericks. Within the fourth quarter, although, Doncic was comparatively held in verify by none aside from Gobert. The Jazz had gone away from their conventional drop large protection and selected to let Gobert swap onto Doncic out on the perimeter.
It was one of many many main changes made in the course of the sport — sorts of changes which can be often reserved for playoff matchups.
What transpired subsequent was a close to seven-minute lengthy battle that confirmed simply why Gobert is a three-time Defensive Participant of the 12 months.
The Mavericks hunted the matchup with Gobert and Doncic, however they ended up with Doncic getting blocked, passing the ball or hitting powerful step backs. Ultimately, the Jazz turned a 3-point deficit right into a 5-point win in the course of the remaining minutes.
Dallas was held to simply 10 factors within the remaining seven minutes of the sport.
“Simply making an attempt to make him work. It was a workforce effort,” mentioned Gobert, who completed with 14 factors and 17 rebounds.
The fascinating particular person matchup was the bookend to what was a really well-played sport. Each groups shot over 40% from 3-point vary and executed at a excessive degree; and there was by no means a lead over double digits.
Mitchell was 11 of 19 from the sphere and hit seven 3-pointers, nevertheless it was Bogdanovic who had the largest shot of the evening. With the sport tied 107-107 with below two minutes remaining, Bogdanovic drilled a nook 3-pointer to offer the Jazz the lead for good.
“I all the time need the ball within the clutch,” mentioned Bogdanovic, who completed with 18 factors within the win.