SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the second straight game, the Utah Jazz could not contain Jalen Brunson and the Dallas Mavericks 3-point attack.
Brunson scored 31 points playing with a bruised back and the Mavericks — without the injured Luka Doncic for the third straight game — beat the Utah Jazz 126-118 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“We’re all on the same page,” Brunson said. “We’re all clicking. We’re all talking and communicating.”
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for Dallas, Maxi Kleber had 17 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 14 points, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:56 left for a 10-point lead.
“I don’t think it’s a physical thing,” said Mike Conley, who had 21 points. “I can guard, Royce [O’Neale] can guard. We’ve got to get back to sliding our feet and staying in front of our man.”
Doncic has missed all three of the games in the series with a strained calf, with signs pointing to his return for Game 4 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Donovan Mitchell scored 28 of his 32 points in the second half for Utah, including 18 points in the third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic added 24 for the Jazz, who had won 11 in a row at home against Dallas.
After giving up 41 points in the second quarter and trailing 68-51 at the half, the crowd at Vivint Arena reigned down boos on the Jazz.
“It’s part of the game,” Mitchell said. “We weren’t playing well. When I was a fan, I booed the hell out of the TV. We definitely deserved it.”
Brunson appeared to hurt his back midway through the second quarter when Royce O’Neale hit him full-speed from behind. He moved gingerly, rubbed his lower back and earned a technical on his way off the court complaining about a cheap shot.
But he shook it off and toyed with Jazz on a variety of drives to the baskets against several different defenders. Brunson now has 96 points in the three games of the series.
“He’s unique in his physical strength and his ability to kind of keep his dribble alive in the lane where he really uses his body,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said about Brunson. “He’s able to play with his feet on the floor, so if you do try to come over and help, he has the ability to find people and spray the ball out.”
“It’s up to us to adjust quicker on the fly on the court,” said Gobert about the Jazz defensive struggles. “We shouldn’t have to wait until halftime.”
Once the Jazz finally matched the Mavericks and played without a center, the court opened up for Utah. Mitchell (18) and Bogdanovic (12) scored at will in the third quarter against a leaky Dallas zone. The Jazz made 14 of 18 shots and trimmed the lead to 97-91 entering the final period. The game was physical and chippy at times, featuring 60 fouls.
Conley made a three-pointer as the Jazz closed the deficit to 103-102, but Dinwiddie made two baskets and Brunson scored six points on three straight possessions to make it 113-104.
Eric Paschall provided a spark off the bench for the Jazz during its third quarter run, scoring six points as the Jazz outscored the Mavs by nine.
Utah shot 56 percent for the game, and made 31 of 33 free throw attempts. But the Jazz made just 9 of 28 from three-point range, while Dallas made 18 of 42 (43%) from beyond the arc.
Rudy Gobert made all six of his shots for 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Jordan Clarkson added 14 points for the Jazz.
Game 4 is set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Vivint Arena.