The opening matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz came down to the wire. With the playoffs officially underway, the first game of the 2022 postseason took place in Dallas.
Entering the game, the Mavs knew they’d be without their best player in Luka Doncic. However, even without their star they nearly beat the Jazz.
“Hopefully he gets healthy,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “You always want a great player to get the opportunity to play, whether he’s on your team or the other.”
Utah ultimately won Game 1 by a final score of 99-93. It was a contest in which scoring wasn’t plentiful, but also didn’t lack excitement. In a game of runs, it truly came down to the final minutes to determine a winner.
When it came down to it, the size difference between the two rosters was the primary factor. The Mavericks lack a dominant 7-footer, as Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber (both 6-foot-10) filled out the center rotation on Saturday afternoon.
That’s simply not enough size to match up against the Utah centers in Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, who are both 7-foot-1. Additionally they’re both traditional bigs that are great on the glass. This proved to be a key differentiator, as Dallas was outrebounded 53 to 34.
“We’ve just gotta rebound the ball, especially playing small. It’s just something we’ve gotta get better at,” said Mavs coach Jason Kidd postgame.
Regardless of when Doncic comes back, the battle on the boards is going to continue to be important. This series could ultimately come down to the style of play. If the Jazz continue to outmatch the Mavs with their size, they’ll have a huge advantage. On the flip side, if Dallas can have success with its small ball lineups and play Gobert and Whiteside off the floor, things could swing in the favor of the Mavericks.
Both teams failed to score 100 points in Game 1, so every bucket really mattered throughout the contest. It was a tale of two halves for the Jazz, as Bojan Bogdanovic carried the offense in the first half while Donovan Mitchell shouldered the load in the second.
Of the 45 points Utah scored in the first half, Bogdanovic account for nearly half with 20. In the second half, Mitchell produced 30 of his 32 points on the afternoon.
While the Jazz didn’t have a consistent primary scorer across the entire game, they got the points they needed in bunches from two of their best offensive players. Gobert finished with just five points on one field goal attempt, but made his impact on the glass and on defense.
“We had a chance, held them under 100 points. That was tough,” said Spencer Dinwiddie after the loss.
Although Utah came out on top in Game 1, Dallas should feel extremely optimistic. Without their best player, the Mavericks legitimately had a shot to win. You could argue that when Doncic comes back, the Mavs should be favorites the rest of the way.
The guard duo of Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson combined for 46 points, but will need to be more efficient moving forward. Those two took a total of 39 shots to produce those points.
The Mavs started hot from beyond the arc, but cooled off as the game went on. They finished 9-of-32 (28.1%) from deep on the afternoon. If just a couple more of those shots would have gone down, the outcome of this game could have easily been different.
The Jazz got the win, but it wasn’t necessarily convincing against a shorthanded Mavericks team. This series could still go either way.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making the easy shots,” said Brunson looking ahead to the next matchup. “We missed a lot of easy shots. Gotta follow our game plan and stick together.”
Game 2 will take place in Dallas once again on Monday evening.