Despite gaining Luka Doncic back into their lineup, the Dallas Mavericks lost 100-99 to the Utah Jazz in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday. Some of the critical events down the stretch of that one were controversial, to say the least.
The Jazz pulled off an odds-defying comeback in Game 4 after trailing by four points with under 40 seconds left in regulation. In the last ten postseasons, teams trailing by at least four points within the final 40 seconds of gameplay held a 4-701 record.
A crucial part of the Jazz pulling off such an epic comeback was a controversial play that featured Donovan Mitchell elbowing Dwight Powell in the face. Instead of getting called for an offensive foul, Mitchell regained possession after his missed layup and converted on an and-one – making the score 99-98 with 31.2 seconds left to play.
There was a note about how Mitchell should have been called for an offensive foul on the NBA’s Last Two-Minutes Report. Mitchell extended his arm and made contact with Powell’s face.
“Powell jumps vertically and maintains a legal vertical position contesting the play at the basket by Mitchell. Mitchell extends his arm toward Powell and makes contact with his face, which affects his ability to contest the play at the basket.”
Had Mitchell was called for the offensive foul, the Mavericks would have gained possession of the basketball, still maintaining a four-point lead with 31.2 seconds left to play. Dallas would have been in a situation where teams posted a .994 winning percentage over the last ten postseasons.
Instead of the officials making the correct call, the Jazz benefited from an and-one call on the putback – reducing Dallas’ lead to just one.
The Mavericks’ next possession featured Doncic throwing a bounce pass to Powell resulting in a foul. The Jazz sought to avoid switching the ball screen by having Gobert show to give Bogdanovic time to recover, which left a window for Doncic to make the bounce pass to Powell.
Donovan Mitchell was the low man on the play and quickly identified the vulnerability in the Jazz’s approach to guarding the ball screen – prompting him to meet Powell on the catch and fouling him. Powell went to the line and missed both of his free throw attempts.
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“We got some great looks, we get to the free-throw line (and) we just don’t make them,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “That’s just part of the game. You got to be able to step up and knock them down. ”
Facing just a one-point deficit, the Jazz used a lob pass from Mitchell to Gobert in what ultimately became the game-winning dunk. With the Mavericks staying home on Utah’s shooters, there would be no help in position against the ball screen. Mitchell drew Powell on the step-up before launching the lob to Gobert with no defender left to impact the play.
The Mavericks could not execute on the final possession since the Jazz sent a late double at Doncic – forcing the ball out of his hands. Spencer Dinwiddie took a contested catch-and-shoot jumper from the extended 3-point range and missed.
“We didn’t really execute it well,” Doncic said. “I should have maybe (drove) the ball. We should have gotten a better shot. But it’s tough. We just got to learn from it and go to the next one. ”
As a result of calling a timeout before their final possession, the Mavericks had the chance to advance the ball instead of inbounding it from the other side of the court. Dallas based their decision on having a running start.
“Everybody assumes you have to advance it, but you don’t,” Kidd said. “We’ve done that all year and had success with it. We had the opportunity. We just let it slip away. Spencer has made that shot before from Luka. We got what we wanted. It’s just the ball didn’t go down for us. ”
While there was undoubtedly still an opportunity for the Mavericks to execute and come out with a win, such a significant swing due to officiating changed the circumstances. The Jazz would have had to come up with five points in under 30 seconds of gameplay with Dallas having possession.
On Monday, the series shifts back to the American Airlines Center for Game 5 with the Mavericks and Jazz engaged in a 2-2 series tie.