December 8, 2022

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Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks NBA Playoffs Game 5 preview 2022

Coming back from a four-point deficit in the final 40 seconds? Seeing the team’s embattled stars connect for the go-ahead bucket on a beautifully improvised alley-oop? Watching the maligned perimeter defense executed to perfection on the final play, while the lightning-rod big man rotated out to the perimeter to challenge the would-be game-winner?

Yeah, the final minute of Saturday’s Game 4 victory was stuffed full of electric moments for the Utah Jazz.

And yeah, they rightly celebrated the momentous occasion, and the series-saving victory, most notably with the pointed “F— the talk” line delivered by Rudy Gobert in a nationally televised interview.

Shortly after, though, came the realization.

“We’re gonna have to go out there and do it again,” noted Donovan Mitchell.

Yeah.

Despite all the dogged defense from Bojan Bogdanovic, despite the early scoring binge from Mitchell and the late one from Jordan Clarkson, despite the headache-inducing pandemonium from the home crowd that caused Dwight Powell to miss two free throws, despite the perfect pass from Mitchell to Gobert, despite forcing Luka Doncic to give the ball up with the game on the line …

The Jazz won by a single point. They held on by the skin of their teeth.

And while it undoubtedly felt good to momentarily shut down all the negative narratives surrounding the team, none of that will mean anything when the Jazz and Mavs go at it again Monday night in Dallas.

“It’s 2-2, and you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low, ‘cause Game 5 is coming quick,” pointed out coach Quin Snyder.

On Saturday, the Jazz finally did many of the things they’ve been needing to do.

And now they’ll need to do them again. And perhaps better, considering they’ll be playing in the hostile confines of American Airlines Center, and considering that Doncic — who was playing his first game in two weeks Saturday following a left calf strain — was no longer even on the Mavericks’ injury report as of Sunday.

Still, all of Utah’s personnel believe there are plenty of good things to build on.

They didn’t force anything offensively.

“For most of the game, we read what the defense gave us,” said Gobert. “And we have so many weapons on this team that when we do that, guys are going to be able to make the extra pass and guys are going to be able to finish the plays. That’s why we’re a team.

“We’ve got to take what the defense gives us. … We took our shots tonight,” added Snyder. “What I mean by that is, when you catch a pass, and it’s coming from a teammate, and your teammate’s telling you to knock it down, it becomes ‘our shot’ — it’s not one guy who has to make a shot, it’s a shot that our team is taking. … We can shoot it better, but they’re our shots.”

The defense was finally where they wanted it to be.

“We defended to win tonight in the fourth quarter,” Snyder said postgame. “… All of our smalls [were] really more urgent and more alert. They still got a bunch of 3s, but they were contested, and they were contested by a bunch of different guys.

“We won the game with our defense, and that’s who we are and what we have to bring every single night,” agreed Bogdanovic.

They played with energy and aggression from the outset.

“We gave everything we had from the get-go,” said Gobert. “… They made some plays, Luka hit some big shots, and we stayed with it. [Now we have to] do that every night, every minute — whoever is on the court, play with intensity.”

And they didn’t fall apart when the game got tough and the momentum shifted.

“Mental fortitude — continuing to battle. It’s not always gonna be pretty,” said Mitchell.

There’s still plenty to improve upon. Gobert cited a few such things postgame, including some ill-timed turnovers, and his teeth-grinding 9-for-18 performance at the free-throw line.

But he also believed there were a couple components to Game 4 that hadn’t been there previously, which made the difference.

“There’s a lot of things we can still do better, but when the effort is there and the trust in each other is there, it’s fun to play that way,” he said.

Mitchell, meanwhile, reiterated the motif that while Game 4 was fun and consequential, it doesn’t count for much if they can’t go out and do it all again.

“We went out and executed. I can say that we’ve been sitting here for months and that’s what we want to be, and we went out there and did it. We did it for one game — now we’ve got to do it again,” he said. “We did it, and that’s the biggest thing. We went out and executed and did it. And we’re gonna have to go out there and continuously play with that effort and intensity.

“… At the end of the day, it’s 2-2. I’m not gonna sit here and say we’ve got it all figured out. It’s 2-2,” he added. “We did what we were supposed to do. We got a crucial game, and it’s a new series, and we’ve got to go back to Dallas and get a win. We did it once, we’ve got to do it again. That’s the mindset.”