Midway through the third quarter Thursday night, Jalen Brunson headed for the basket, pushed away from the defense and returned a pass to Spencer Dinwiddie on the perimeter. With seconds remaining on the shot clock, Dinwiddie had to make a quick decision. Thanks to Donovan Mitchell, he didn’t have to think very hard.
Mitchell came charging at Dinwiddie and took two big gathering steps as if about to launch into the air to challenge a shot. Dinwiddie saw this coming and never even bothered to look at the rim. Instead, he immediately put the ball on deck and swung past a completely off-balance Mitchell for an easy lay-up.
Nobody keeps track of bad closes, but if anyone wants to do a mix for YouTube, you can start with this Mitchell effort, which was one of the worst you’ll see in a playoff game. Moments like this were all too common at Mitchell and Co., as the Dallas Mavericks sliced through the Utah Jazz’s perimeter defense en route to a 126-118 Game 3 win and advantage. 2-1 in the series.
There are certain games where you have to do a replay and a deep dive to really understand and explain what was going on in the field. Other times the action is so simple and obvious that there’s nothing to do but roll the tape. Game 3 belongs to this last category.
So let’s just do that. Now showcasing, to your delight or disgust depending on which team you support, the Jazz’ attempts to stay ahead of the Mavericks on the perimeter. (In the interest of time and bandwidth, this is by no means exhaustive, but you’ll understand.)
7:51: Brunson calls the screen to put Mitchell on the switch, shakes him with a spinning motion for an easy bucket.
7:22 a.m .: Bojan Bogdanovic drew with Brunson in semi-transition. Brunson backs up for the iso and dribbles right past him without even making a move.
3:52: Dorian Finney-Smith places a screen, then appears at the top of the key. Jordan Clarkson turns around and completely loses Finney-Smith for an easy backcut and dunk.
1:34 a.m.: Danuel House Jr. gets caught overplaying Brunson, who cuts the backdoor and crumbles the defenses, leading to a wide-open 3-pointer for Josh Green.
10:00 a.m.: Dinwiddie calls the screen to put Clarkson on the switch and sizes him up for a drive, so Gobert comes to the middle of the free throw line to try to talk him out of it, which leaves Green wide open for 3. He There wasn’t even a blowout here, but Gobert expected there to be one that was good enough for the Mavericks.
7:39 a.m.: Brunson calls the screen to put Clarkson on the switch and walks right past him to the edge with nothing more than a stuttering step.
7:14 a.m.: Brunson uses another screen to put Bogdanovic on the switch this time. He backs up then dribble past him for one and one on the tough finish.
5:18 a.m.: Mike Conley tries to get Dinwiddie back early, so Dinwiddie just spreads things out and easily passes bye to earn a trip to the free throw line.
2:02: Dinwiddie orchestrates another screen to put Clarkson on the switch, crosses him into the paint and it’s a wide open 3 for Reggie Bullock.
10:05 a.m.: Brunson calls for a high screen to try and put Mitchell on the switch, but it’s not even necessary as O’Neale just shows him a way to the lane for one-and-one.
8:26 a.m .: The Jazz refuse to take over Dinwiddie in semi-transition, so he takes the lead and puts Rudy Gobert on a poster.
3:36: O’Neale is doing well and fighting to prevent the change, but it doesn’t matter because Brunson puts him in a blender.
3:06 a.m.: Brunson tries to put Mitchell back in the switch, but the Jazz get the wrong call, which leaves Davis Bertans wide open for practice 3.
1:03 am: Bogdanovic is already on Brunson so he doesn’t need a screen. He dribbles just calmly past him, draws the defense and creates an easy layup for Green.
6:18 a.m.: After the Jazz cut it to one, the Mavericks put the ball in Dinwiddie’s hands and set a screen for it to go to Mitchell. A simple dribble move and it’s an easy layup.
5:55: Next time, same thing. Mitchell just took Dinwiddie this time, and the Mavericks guard runs through him for a layup.
4:35: Conley tries to get into Brunson well above the 3-point line, but the pressure doesn’t matter. Brunson just goes left like nobody’s there and finishes on the edge.
1:56: Another high screen involving Clarkson, and again Dinwiddie cooks him off to get into the paint. The defense crumbles and Finney-Smith drains the 3 to repel the double-digit lead.
No gimmicks, no surprises. The Mavericks simply challenged the Jazz to stay ahead of them on the perimeter, and they couldn’t do it, so they lost. If the Jazz don’t get their act together, the same thing will happen Saturday in Game 4.
“I don’t think it’s a physical thing – I can keep, Royce can keep,” Mike Conley mentioned. “We have to go back to sliding our feet and staying in front of our man… There is no magic pattern.”