In the middle of the third quarter on Thursday night, Jalen Brunson drove to the basket, pivoted away from the defense and threw a pass back out to Spencer Dinwiddie on the perimeter. With just a few 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 out at Dinwiddie, and took two big gathering steps as if he was about to launch himself in the air to contest a shot. Dinwiddie saw that coming and never even bothered to look at the rim. Instead, he immediately put the ball on the deck and ghosted past a completely off-balance Mitchell for an easy layup.
No one keeps track of bad closeouts, but if anyone wants to make a mix for YouTube you can start with that effort by Mitchell, which was one of the worst you’re going to see in a playoff game. Moments like that were all too common from Mitchell and Co., as the Dallas Mavericks carved up the Utah Jazz’s perimeter defense en route to 126-118 Game 3 win, and a 2-1 series advantage.
There are certain games where you need to do a rewatch and a deep dive to really understand and explain what was happening on the court. Other times, the action plays out in such simple and obvious fashion that there’s nothing to do but roll the tape. Game 3 falls into the latter category.
So, let’s do just that. Now presenting, for your enjoyment or disgust depending on which team you support, the Jazz’s attempts to stay in front of the Mavericks on the perimeter. (In the interest of time and bandwith, this is by no means comprehensive, but you’ll get the point.)
7:51: Brunson calls for the screen to get Mitchell on the switch, shakes him with a spin move for an easy bucket.
7:22: Bojan Bogdanovic matched up with Brunson in the semi-transition. Brunson backs out for the iso and just dribbles right past him without even making a move.
3:52: Dorian Finney-Smith sets a screen, then pops out to the top of the key. Jordan Clarkson gets all turned around and completely loses Finney-Smith for an easy backcut and dunk.
1:34: Danuel House Jr. gets caught overplaying Brunson, who cuts backdoor and collapses the defenses, which leads to a wide open 3-pointer for Josh Green.
10:00: Dinwiddie calls for the screen to get Clarkson on the switch, and is sizing him up for a drive, so Gobert comes all the way over to the middle of the free throw line to try and dissuade him, which leaves Green wide open for 3. There wasn’t even a blow-by here, but Gobert expected one was coming which was good enough for the Mavericks.
7:39: Brunson calls for the screen to get Clarkson on the switch and goes right past him to the rim with nothing more than a stutter-step.
7:14: Brunson uses another screen to get Bogdanovic on the switch this time. He backs it out then dribbles past him for an and-one on the tough finish.
5:18: Mike Conley tries to pick Dinwiddie up early, so Dinwiddie just spreads things out and easily goes bye to earn a trip to the free throw line.
2:02: Dinwiddie orchestrates another screen to get Clarkson on the switch, crosses him up to get into the paint and it’s a wide open 3 for Reggie Bullock.
10:05: Brunson asks for a high screen to try and get Mitchell on the switch, but that’s not even necessary because O’Neale just shows him a path right to the lane for an and-one.
8:26: The Jazz decline to pick up Dinwiddie in the semi-transition, so he gets a head of steam and puts Rudy Gobert on a poster.
3:36: O’Neale actually does well and fights to prevent the switch, but it doesn’t matter because Brunson puts him in a blender.
3:06: Brunson tries to get Mitchell again in the switch, but the Jazz miscommunicate which leaves Davis Bertans wide open for a practice 3.
1:03: Bogdanovic is already on Brunson so he doesn’t need a screen. He just calmly dribbles past him, draws the defense and creates an easy layup for Green.
6:18: After the Jazz cut it to one, the Mavericks put the ball in Dinwiddie’s hands and set a screen so he can go at Mitchell. One simple dribble move and it’s an easy layup.
5:55: Next time down, same thing. Mitchell just picks Dinwiddie up this time, and the Mavericks guard goes right through him for a layup.
4:35: Conley tries to get up into Brunson well above the 3-point line, but the pressure doesn’t matter. Brunson just goes left like no one is there and finishes at the rim.
1:56: Another high screen involving Clarkson, and once again Dinwiddie cooks him to get into the paint. The defense collapses and Finney-Smith drains the 3 to push the lead back to double digits.
No gimmicks, no surprises. The Mavericks simply dared the Jazz to stay in front of them on the perimeter, and they couldn’t do it so they lost. If the Jazz don’t get it together, the same thing is going to happen on Saturday in Game 4.
“I don’t think it’s a physical thing – I can guard, Royce can guard,” Mike Conley said. “We’ve got to get back to sliding our feet and staying in front of our man … There’s no magical scheme.”