Things have not gone smoothly for the Utah Jazz in the postseason during the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert era. Mitchell, who was drafted in 2017, has made an impact ever since he was a rookie as he’s helped lead them to the playoffs every year. Gobert, who joined the team in 2013, has functioned as their defensive anchor.
Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd seems to have found an answer to Gobert, though, thanks to playing a small-ball lineup to counter the Frenchman’s size with speed and passing. Gobert, who is a fearsome presence in the paint, has much more trouble when continuously forced out of position. Here’s an example of a play from Game 5 that sees the Mavericks move the ball around with crisp accuracy, drawing Gobert out and allowing for a much easier attack near the rim.
The change threw the Jazz out of sync, and by the end of the game they stared at a final scoreline of 102-77. It was a rough night all around for their offense and Gobert was ironically the only starter to score in double digits with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Mitchell did not contribute much to the game, finishing with nine points while shooting 4 of 15 overall and missing all seven of his three-pointers. To add insult to injury, Mitchell looked to have hurt himself late in garbage time and was forced to leave the floor with an apparent hamstring injury.
The Jazz’s overall leading scorer was Jordan Clarkson, who had 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Bogdan Bogdanovic, normally a reliable scorer, finished with two points while missing all nine of his field goal attempts.
Utah’s struggles were further exacerbated by a strong night from Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who looked great with 33 points, 13 rebounds, five assists while shooting 11 of 22 from the field. He got plenty of help, especially from Jalen Brunson, who continues to be a revelation in this postseason. Brunson finished the game with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists as he continued to show the Jazz that he had no fear of attacking them.
Doncic did a little bit of everything, as he’s known to do, but the most memorable moment of the game was an altercation involving him and Hassan Whiteside.
After a hard foul, Doncic showed visible frustration on the ground, and while Whiteside looked to have extended his hand to help him up and acknowledge the foul, Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock got into a heated altercation with him. The ensuing fracas on the court saw Whiteside receive two technicals for an automatic ejection, while Bullock received his second technical of the game to also get thrown out of the game.
That incident didn’t inspire a big comeback from the Jazz, who are now staring at a 3-2 deficit and must win two in a row to advance. That’s going to be tough if Mitchell isn’t at his best, and if they don’t quickly find an answer to Dallas’ small-ball lineups. If they fall in the series, it will be another added disappointment, as they’ve not made it past the second round since 2007, where they lost 1-4 to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
The Jazz have had some rotten luck, including an injury to Donovan Mitchell last year that prevented him from being in top shape. After defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 4-1 in the first round, they won their first two games against the Clippers before losing four-straight. The Jazz had the best record in the Western Conference last season, so they are clearly a dangerous regular season team, but that hasn’t translated to the playoffs. They’re 16-22 in playoff games so far since Mitchell was drafted.
The series is not over yet, but a blowout win isn’t what you want on your minds when returning home for a win-or-go-home Game 6 in front of your fans. We’ll have to see what adjustments Quin Snyder makes, but the Jazz look like they might be set for another first round defeat.