How do you beat the Utah Jazz – or any other NBA team, for that matter – in a must-play playoff game? Simply sink 22 3 points. The Dallas Mavs scored a long-range shooting record from Maxi Kleber and a career-best night from Jalen Brunson to force the Jazz — and Dallas critics — to put their brooms away.
DONUT 1: HOME SWEET HOME, FINALLY – Mavs snapped a six-game playoff home game losing streak, winning a playoff game at the American Airlines Center for the first time since April 26, 2015. That Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets was so long ago that Dallas was trailing by 31 points. of … Monta Ellis.
DONUT 2: BRUNSON BURNER – Jalen Brunson has quietly pledged all season to atone for his poor showing in last season’s first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. In that series, Brunson scored just nine combined points in Games 6 and 7 as the Mavs coughed up a 3-2 lead. Monday night’s performance should put those nightmares to bed, as Brunson scored a career-high 41 points becoming just the fifth Mav in the top 40 in a playoff game along with Dirk Nowitzki (seven times), Luka Doncic (five) , Rolando Blackman (two) and Nick Van Exel (one). Brunson worked the Jazz defense like a Yo-Yo all night, hitting six 3-pointers, scoring on a streak of shots from mid-range and – perhaps most impressively – committing no turnovers in 42 minutes under pressure. He is the first player in Mavs history with 40+ points and 0 turnovers. If he hadn’t already, Brunson made a lot of money on Monday night.
DONUT 3: KLUTCH KLEBER – Not bad for a guy who’s only shot 19% from beyond the 3-point line since the All-Star break. Despite Brunson’s career-best performance, Maxi Kleber saved the Mavs on Monday night with one of the best shooting performances in franchise history. Dirk has never made more than five 3s in a playoff game. Kleber made eight, just one shy of Jason Terry’s franchise record nine in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011. Kleber said, “I felt really good. I said (Dorian Finney-Smith) this morning that I was going to let ten three fly. They leave me open so I have to shoot them. Tonight I made them.
No magic Luka. Again.
DONUT 4: THREE TIMES GENIER – You’re just not going to lose much – anyone? – NBA games when you make more than 20 3-pointers. Dallas baffled Utah with a franchise record of 22, breaking the previous record of 20 originally set in Game 4 against the Lakers in 2011 and tied it last season in Game 3 against the Clippers. Which, come to think of it, the Mavs lost. It is therefore possible. But we can break down pick-and-roll analysis and substitution patterns all night and it won’t change the difference between the Mavs losing Game 1 and winning Game 2: 9 3s in Game 1; 22 3s in Game 2.
DONUT 5: BOUNCE BOYS – The Mavs improved to an impressive 22-9 after a loss this season. During the regular season, they were the second best team in the NBA after a loss behind the Phoenix Suns (13-4).
DONUT 6: GETTING OUT OF THE JUMP – The Mavs came out of the gate quickly in Games 1 and 2, but couldn’t sustain the initial momentum. In Game 1 they took a 19-12 lead and in Game 2 they were leading 14-6. At the end of both terms, however, the Jazz woke up from their slumber. In Game 1, Dallas was only leading 23-20 after 12 minutes and Game 2 was tied at 24 early in the second quarter.
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DONUT 7: TOO GREEN? – In these high-stakes, high-stress games, we just don’t know if Josh Green is ready. His athleticism seems limited by Utah’s beefed up defense and it has strangled his decision-making. He looks hesitant and has only made one of nine shots in the series.
DONUT 8: STRANGE STAT – The Jazz have passed the Mavs by an impressive 103-65 and have yet to see Doncic. Granted, they now have home-court advantage, but they have to go to Salt Lake City bewildered they are not up 2-0.
Luka & Cuban, both in street clothes
Brunson vs. O’Neal
DONUT 9: PROPERTY GAME 2 – The Mavs have won their last four Game 2s, dating back to the 2016 first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and back-to-back series against the 2020-21 Clippers.
DONUT 10: NO RESPECT – Tell us again how Brunson wasn’t in the mix for the NBA’s “Most Improved” award. No offense to Darius Garland, Ja Morant and Dejounte Murray, but any voter who watched last year’s playoff loss to the Clippers and Monday night’s Game 2 might need to rethink their ballot.
DONUT 11: GAME 3 OPTIMISM? – Luka is fair must play Thursday in Utah, right? Well, remember, it took Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott two weeks to play in a game after also straining his calf last October. And while we know Doncic’s game doesn’t rely on his vertical leaps and over-time finishes, during the pre-game he was barely shooting jumpers on his toes. Not great.
DONUT 12: REPEATABLE RECIPE? – Similar to their loss in Game 1, the Mavs were outplayed on the boards by 19. How do you compensate for this disadvantage? Simply knock down 22 3-pointers. We’ll see if the Mavs’ hot shots make the trip to Salt Lake City, where they’ve lost 11 straight games.