It’s easy to dissect the last two possessions in the fourth quarter that would’ve given the Mavericks a 3-point lead: one, if Powell made his two free throws with 19.8 seconds left — just like he made the previous two — and two, if Spencer Dinwiddie would’ve made the game winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer. If either of those plays broke right, the Mavericks would’ve held a commanding 3-1.
With 5 seconds remaining in the game and the ball in Doncic hands, the Mavericks have been in this position before. It’s the same play they ran against the Brooklyn Nets when Dinwiddie hit the buzzer winning shot out of a Doncic-trap. (It’s a play that gives the Mavs different options to choose from based on matchups and time remaining.) Only this time, it was Danuel House Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic who trapped Doncic, which Doncic anticipated and swung it to Dinwiddie for the shot.
In both scenarios, Finney-Smith was wide open in the corner. Gobert, who had to guard in open space between Finney-Smith and Dinwiddie, recovered well enough to throw a hand at Dinwiddie’s vision. It’s also the same play they ran that led Powell to the line for those crucial free throws.
“Spencer has made that shot before from Luka. We got what we wanted, shot just didn’t go down for us… We had some great looks, we go to the free throw line and just don’t make them… Now we just have to go home and protect home.” Jason Kidd on the final minute of the game.
The game is predicated on makes and misses while the Mavericks came up short. It was another game they should have won but lost at the last seconds. People will look at those two possessions as the deciding factor why the Mavericks lost. And for good reason, that would be enough to settle a debate. But that’s a snapshot of what happened.
The bigger picture is to look at other moments that happened in the game that didn’t fall into Mavericks favor. Here are 4 observations that contributed to the 100-99 loss against Utah.
- Jazz aggression
Utah Jazz took a staggering 42 trips to the free throw line. I know Mavericks fans find that number upsetting and unfair. But credit the Jazz for being more aggressive on the pick-and-roll and using their size and physicality in the paint for extra possessions, putting the refs in a position to blow the whistle in their favor. Once their guards were able to turn the corner on screens, they found their way to the paint which led to them either getting a bucket or attempting free throws. They went at Doncic several times, who looked a step behind and still getting adjusted to the playoff intensity.
“Getting my wind back, a bit tired but it felt great to be back. It was all good. We didn’t really execute it well (on the last play), I should drive the ball.. but it’s 2-2. We gotta go onto the next one.” Doncic on returning to the lineup.
- Bench points
Jordan Clarkson had his best game shooting 56 percent from the floor and team leading 25 points off the bench. Mavericks got little contribution from its bench, with 13 points total. In both wins, the Mavs bench contributed by knocking down their 3-pointers. In this game, they only made three. They had good looks created off Brunson and Doncic dribbles but couldn’t capitalize when it mattered. Dinwiddie had another forgettable shooting night with 22 percent and only one made 3-point out of five attempts.
- Maxi Kleber fouled out
Much of the reason why the bench had a poor shooting night was their best man Maxi Kleber fouled out with six points in 18 minutes played. His recent shooting burst creates instant offense and opens the spacing that guards need to go to the paint. With him being on the bench, it made it easier for Gobert and Whiteside to hover around the paint and stay in front of guards for contested shots. He’s also one of their better rebounders and rim protectors and wasn’t on the floor in the last two minutes. If the Mavericks are going to win more games, they need Kleber on floor as another shooter. With the rotation tightening, they can’t afford to have him watching from the sidelines.
- Offensive rebounds
The Mavericks couldn’t contain Gobert off the boards. His 10 offensive rebounds felt like momentum shifts with each grab. Having two bodies on him wasn’t enough, as he led the game with 15 rebounds. Perhaps, the biggest rebound didn’t come from Gobert, but from Mitchell who grabbed his rebound with 31 seconds left off a driving layup and put back with an and-one to make it 99-97. The Mavericks will have to do a better job of boxing out and cleaning the boards to eliminate second chance offense.
The prior possession to Dinwiddie’s game-winning miss, Donavon Mitchell connected with Gobert for alley-oop off a simple pick-and-roll to give them 100-99 lead.
Utah made their shot when it mattered and it’s a big reason why the series is tied 2-2.