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NBA

Mavs lose at home to Jazz as NBA playoffs start

The Utah Jazz secured a 99-93 win over a Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks on Saturday in the NBA’s 2021-2022 playoff opener.

Update:
DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 16: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket against Davis Bertans #44 of the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center on April 16, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
Tom PenningtonGetty

The Utah Jazz huffed and puffed to finally beat the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks 99-93 on Saturday in the NBA’s 2021-2022 playoff opener.

Donovan Mitchell led Utah’s offense with 32 points, 30 of them in the second half, and Frenchman Rudy Gobert was the defensive bulwark (5 points and 17 rebounds) in a win that the Jazz had to sweat much more than expected.

Jalen Brunson (24 points) and Spencer Dinwiddie (22) kept the Mavericks’ hopes alive until the last minute at the American Airlines Center, but the Jazz did not give up the ghosts of their last playoff performances.

Dallas Doncic-dependency

Dallas finished the regular season in fourth place in the Western Conference, one ahead of Utah, but their chances of advancing are tied to the recovery of Doncic, who injured his calf in the final regular-season game.

The presence of the Slovenian star who averages 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game, is in serious doubt for Game 2 of the series, which will be played again Monday in Dallas.

DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 16: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts from the bench as the Dallas Mavericks
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DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 16: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts from the bench as the Dallas Mavericks TOM PENNINGTONAFP

The opening clash of the playoffs pitted two franchises that have accumulated frustrations in recent years in the postseason.

The Utah duo of Mitchell and Gobert is under the spotlight after they have so far failed to take the Jazz beyond the second round, while the Mavericks lost the last two years in the first series to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Jazz strike the right note

The Jazz are still not showing their best version this season but against Dallas they ended up imposing their dominance under the hoops (53 rebounds to 34 for their rival) and taking advantage of the Mavericks’ lack of shooting accuracy (38.2% in two-point shots and 28.1% from three-point range).

In an even and nervous first half, the Mavericks managed to contain Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s offensive star, but the Croatian Bojan Bogdanovic took over, scoring 20 of his 26 points at halftime.

DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 16: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Utah Jazz reacts after scoring a three-point shot against the Dallas Mavericks
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DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 16: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Utah Jazz reacts after scoring a three-point shot against the Dallas MavericksTOM PENNINGTONAFP

After going into the locker room with only 2 points (1/9 from the field), Mitchell woke up with 19 in the third quarter to push the Jazz to a 12-point lead.

With Doncic cheering from the bench, the Mavericks did not give up and, with a 16-6 run, were only one point behind (92-91) with two minutes to go thanks to a three-pointer by Maxi Kleber.

Kleber himself could have put Dallas ahead but missed another attempt from the three-point line.

Royce O’Neal then came up with a crucial offensive rebound and nailed a three-pointer to give Utah a 95-91 lead that they would not let go.