I honestly don’t know how the Utah Jazz (28-16) almost won this game, almost lost this game, absolutely lost this game, and then somehow definitely won this game against the Dallas Mavericks (14-29), 112-107 (OT). I saw what happened on the court, but it was definitely unbelievable. The referees had a huge impact in this game, alternating between helping both teams and hurting both teams. The ‘tone’ with which they officiated changed during the game, and that lack of consistency is very hard for players and coaches to adjust to - at the capricious whims of three men with whistles. I’m only bringing the refs up here in the first paragraph because I think they had a huge outcome on this game.
I’m not just saying that because the two teams combined for almost 70 FTA in a 53 minute game. I’m saying that because they really blew it on what should have been the penultimate play in regulation. But there were 47 plus minutes of action to distill through before we get to that moment chronologically.
Dallas won the first and third quarters, but by a margin of 3 points and 1 point respectively. Utah won the second quarter by 8. Utah went into Dallas, and went into the fourth quarter up on the road. That’s better than being behind, for sure. Huge factors that got us to that 72-68 Jazz lead were the play of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Rudy and Gordon continue their ascent up the mountain of respect. But Dirk looks like he’s really on his way down that mountain top. Rick Carlisle would only go to his Teutonic warrior for 25 minutes tonight. He wasn’t in foul trouble. But he just wasn’t getting it done. For the game he would shoot 1/13 from the field, and go 0/4 from deep. He did his work on the glass but couldn’t defend anyone. And there was one sequence in the fourth where he missed three shots in a row near the rim - punctuated by a Derrick Favors block. He didn’t have the lift, and he wasn’t himself. And when your Hall of Famer former MVP isn’t playing well you have a chance to steal a game on the road. And that’s where Utah found themselves going into the fourth quarter tonight.
I’ve never been impressed by Harrison Barnes either, and I don’t think he stepped up when Dirk was having a bad game. But a few guys did: Deron Williams, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, Seth Curry, and Dwight Powell. You may note that all of these guys are point guards except for Powell. And that may help you understand how George Hill fouled out in regulation tonight -- and how Gobert had a career night in the paint.
Midway through the fourth the Jazz lead was still four points (off of two Alec Burks free throws), but the Mavs came back. A lob for Dorian Finney-Smith followed by a Dwight Powell jam tied the game at 76-76 with 8:25 left to play. The two teams traded scratches, fouls, floor burns, and points over the next few minutes but a pair of J.J. Barea jumpers put the Mavs up by two with 6:47 to play. (Their first lead since the waning moments of the third quarter.)
Dallas, at home, now in the drivers seat, continued to guard attack the Jazz. Whomever George Hill defended they got him the ball. And most of the time it ended up turning into a post up or a mismatch on the perimeter as Carlisle continued to go small. Dallas would find themselves in this situation (ahead and in the driver’s seat) at the 5:39 mark, 5:05 mark, 3:55 mark, 3:09 mark, and 1:06 mark in the fourth quarter.
Each time Dallas would get a small lead, but somehow this Utah team didn’t quit. Free throws were answered with free throws. Jumpers by jumpers. Points in the paint by gritty points in the paint, and so on. Dallas played the night before and don’t have the overall youth and vigor to put away teams anymore. Utah seems to be figuring out how to stay in road games - and possibly win them. (Something a number of Jerry Sloan teams never figured out, by the way.)
But really, this game was over by the 1:16 mark where D-Will got Hill to foul out. Williams nailed the two free throws to possibly put his team up for good. Quin Snyder went with no point guards down the stretch (balling handling duties spread out between Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw — with Rudy Gobert being there to set screens and roll to the rim all day long), and 10 seconds after Dallas “won” this game Hayward hit a three. After forcing a Dallas miss, Hayward was at it again with a pick and roll and dump off pass to Rudy for another two points. The Jazz are now up by 3 with 0:36 to play. Game over, right?
After a time out the Mavs run a play that ends up with a Deron Williams assist to a completely open Seth Curry in the corner. Boom. Tie game with only 11 seconds off of the clock. Jazz ball.
Utah iso’d for Hayward after a time-out and he drives to the rim and is unable to either get to the line or finish on the Alec Burks’ like lay-up attempt. Dallas gets the rebound and has possession with over 2.5 seconds left. Rick Carlisle calls a time-out, the refs don’t see it or recognize it. Deron dribbles up and passes half-court where there’s contention on who knocks the ball out of his hands.
After review the refs put 0.2 seconds on the clock . . . and somehow give the possession to the Utah Jazz? I think Dallas got screwed here. I think the refs knew that too, as in overtime Dallas was getting a lot of ‘continuation’ calls and free throw attempts on made layups. (Or in some cases, completely phantom fouls). (Like the Dwight Powell FTA after making a lay-up when Gobert flew out of his way but was still called for a foul.)
In Overtime the Jazz did battle a tired team on their home court, but prevailed. Deron Williams almost willed his tired team to a win, but at the worst moment missed a lay-up he was making all game long. Dallas had trouble with Rudy who they had to foul a lot - and he did miss some free throws. Probably the decisive moment of this game (besides the non-time out awarded to Dallas) came at the 1:50 mark. Dallas was up 107-104 with less than two minutes to play. Rudy Gobert was fouled. And he missed the first and second free throws . . . only to secure the rebound, pass it out to Joe Johnson outside, who set himself up for a late game, clutch three point swish.
Game tied. Again, somehow.
Deron’s lay-up miss (after torching the Jazz for 5 points and 2 assists in the Overtime period so far) set up Gobert’s rebound and quick pass out to Joe Ingles, who calmly swished his first and only two free throws of the game. Jazz now up by 109-107, with 1:19 to play.
Utah dug in deep on defense and forced a jump ball, which they would lose, buy Boris Diaw tapped out to the opposite side of the court — meaning Dallas had to use up more time to get the ball back into an offensive set. But even with Dirk back in the game to close the last minute things did not improve for Dallas.
Rudy was dominant on the pick and roll, routinely guarding smaller guys and making life hard for them — forcing them to fade away on jumpers that would normally be open against receding bigmen. Utah had a chance to seal this game with about 30 seconds to play, but Dirk got away with a hand to the face foul that disadvanted Gordon Hayward, who was knocked for a 24 second shot clock violation.
Deron missed another layup, and chance to tie the game with 0:24 to play. Rudy got the board, got fouled, and went 1 for 2 from the line. Utah’s now up by 3 with 0:22 to play. We all know what’s happening. The Mavs move the ball around, and move the Jazz defense around with it, and somehow the ball rotates from D-Will to Dirk, open, all alone, from straight away three.
** Clank ** (In German)
Dirk’s missed three with 0:10 seconds to play in Overtime was about as improbable as Gobert missing two free throws, and then getting the offensive rebound. Or about as improbable as a ref standing next to Rick Carlisle not giving him the time-out with about 2.5 seconds to play and the Mavericks in completely possession of the ball.
Dirk missed, Rudy got the rebound (his 25th), and then he made the two free throws to ice the game. Dallas could have made it interesting but Harrison Barnes missed a three with 6 seconds to play, and Broadway Joe Ingles got the rebound and dribbled out the clock. Jazz win 112-107, after losing this game “for sure” so many times . . . and after winning this game “for sure” a few times as well.
This is a game previous era Utah Jazz teams would have lost. Hayward taking control after Hill fouled out kept the Jazz offense going. Guys like Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson stepping up in the fourth quarter and overtime helped steady this team in situations where it normally would have buckled. Joe Ingles being Joe Ingles (playing great defense, forcing turn overs, hitting shots and not missing at all when it counts) gives this team someone they can rely on to make plays on both sides of the ball.
And man, Rudy Gobert eating with humans is great. A career night for him with 27 points (8/11 FG, 11/17 FT), 25 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal, and the big win.
He was a huge part of the Jazz’s tremendous 52 points in the paint (to 34) advantage, 53 (to 42) rebound advantage, and game saving 15 (to 9) offensive rebound advantage. If he continues to play like this he could, very well, end up being an All-NBA player at the end of the season.
Nay, he SHOULD be.
Fantastic Jazz win. They are now the tired team off of an OT win, and will play tomorrow night at home at the Aunt Viv — hosting the tenacious Indiana Pacers (and all of their former Jazzmen).
Get some rest Gobzilla, we’re going to need you against Al Jefferson and Myles Turner.