Setting the Stage
During the regular season, there were showdowns between Luka Doncic and Rudy Gobert that had them at odds multiple times. The first was when Rudy Gobert got into it at halftime and saw Gobert locking up Luka Doncic in a meeting in Salt Lake City.
It was obvious that Doncic took offense to all the clips of him being stopped by Gobert making rounds on the internet. Things got chippy in their next meeting.
Doncic had a memorable flop to get Gobert out of the game.
In that game, Doncic got the last laugh with 35 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists.
The problem is that Luka Doncic got injured in the last Mavericks game of the season and is looking like he’ll be missing some games in the series. According to Adrian Wojnarowski “this is more than a mild strain.”
If Doncic doesn’t play, it obviously hurts the Mavericks' chances in a big way. If you listen to Wojnarowski, it’s likely to be at least 2 games that he’ll be missing. If that’s the case, Doncic will miss both games in Dallas and will head to Salt Lake City where he’s struggled to win his entire career. The Mavericks do have newly acquired Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, but that may not be enough to get a win in Dallas.
Directly after the first night of play-in games, the NBA released the playoff schedule. It’s clear that the NBA isn’t counting on Luka Doncic coming back quickly because they have the Jazz and Mavericks as the 11:00 game on Saturday and have them as the NBA TV series.
Game 4 has them playing at 2:30 MT on TNT. It’s another early Saturday game, but you can bet that’s when the NBA is sure that Doncic will return. With Doncic missing the first 2-3 games, this has a high likelihood of being an elimination game. It would obviously be the best-case scenario for the Jazz, just like it would be for every team, but with an older Mike Conley being such a core part of the team it would be huge to get as many days rest as possible between series.
The Jazz and Mavericks have played each other 2 times in the playoffs since 1985. In 2000-01 season, the Mavericks won the series 3-2. The starters for both teams for that series were:
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley, Juwan Howard, Steve Nash, Shawn Bradley.
Utah Jazz: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Bryon Russell, Donyell Marshall, Olden Polynice
Probably the most interesting aspect of that game was Dirk Nowitzki playing 48 minutes in a Game 1. It’s a different league now.
If you’re a Jazz fan and you want to hurt your own feelings, you can see the Jazz lose to the Mavericks in Game 5 here. The Jazz had a 13-point lead near the beginning of the 4th quarter and 1-point lead with a minute left. You can fast forward to that part or slam your fingers in the car door. Either one would give you the same feeling.
For the 1985-86 series the Mavericks won that series also. Here are the starters for that series.
Dallas Mavericks: Rolando Blackman, Sam Perkins, James Donaldson, Derek Harper, Mark Aguirre.
Utah Jazz: Karl Malone, Bob Hansen, Mark Eaton, Thurl Bailey, Rickey Green.
I couldn’t find the video of any of these games but that’s probably for the best as we’ve already re-visted enough pain in one article.
Matchup to Watch
The obvious one for this is Rudy Gobert and Luka Doncic. Gobert in the past has switched onto Doncic late in games and has done a good job slowing him down. That will be the matchup of the series and if Gobert does a good job, this should be a winnable series for the Jazz.
Having Doncic out changes things. The matchup to watch with Doncic out is probably Donovan Mitchell vs Jalen Brunson. Mitchell has to have a good series for the Jazz to knock out the Mavericks. You know what Rudy Gobert will bring, and you can pencil in at least 6 assists and 12 points for Mike Conley. The wildcard for the Jazz is what do they get from Mitchell, especially late in games. It’s not been a good year for Mitchell in the clutch. You could argue that the defense hasn’t been good in the clutch either, which it hasn’t, but Mitchell is the face of this team and Utah needs him to reach the level of play he has in series they’ve played in the past. Brunson is a solid, stout guard with a great all around game, but Mitchell should be the best player in this series with Doncic out. If Donovan Mitchell has a big series, it’s likely the Jazz come out on top in this one.
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