Immediately after Utah walked off the court at American Airlines Arena on Monday night, the wagons began circling the Jazz.
Utah fell 110-104 to the Luka Doncic-less Mavericks, struggling to contain Dallas' guards at the point of attack and forcing Utah's all-NBA big man Rudy Gobert into impossible situations trying to protect the rim and defend shooters at the three-point line. What resulted was a 24-11 run by the Mavericks to end the game, 15 of which came from behind the arc.
"We just have to embrace defense, all of us," Gobert said Monday. "We gotta understand that we can guard any kind of lineup. … We have done it. Some games we struggle. … Some games we've done it successfully, so we gotta be who we are."
The reaction on social media postgame, from national pundits and the media was instantaneous — Utah was not a team to be taken seriously and could not be counted on to win when it mattered most.
To them, it appeared that the Jazz had not fixed their biggest perceived flaw — the same one that eliminated them in the postseason last year.
It was the same recipe that doomed Utah throughout the past two seasons; teams with quick guards who can break down the Jazz perimeter defenders and get into the paint, forcing Gobert to either defend the rim or stay locked in on his shooter in the corner.
Either way, it wasn't good for Utah.
But, a lot of social media, national pundits, and the media failed to realize that while the Jazz struggled to stop Dallas late, it's clearly not the end of the world — a point Utah made clear in their postgame interviews.
"It is a long series," Gobert said. "It is now about how we are going to adjust, how we are going to get better from this? It is a marathon. As long as we keep the right mindset, getting better game after game, we'll be in good shape."
There are many positives to take away from the opening games of the series, first and foremost being that the Jazz did precisely what they had to do. The goal was always the same for the first two games, win one and steal back homecourt advantage — something they achieved with a win on Saturday.
Naturally, it would've been nice to win both games, an opportunity they had, but sweeping the Mavericks was a rarity. Dallas is too talented defensively — especially without Doncic — to get swept.
"We tried to go out there and take both, but it didn't happen," Donovan Mitchell said. "We are not going to overreact. We've gotta go home and we've got to take care of business, simple as that."
It should also be noted that it took a near-perfect performance from the Mavericks to take down the Jazz.
Brunson went nuclear with 41 points — Maxi Kleber, who was shooting 19% from behind the arc post-all-star break, finished with 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting from deep — the Mavericks shot 46.8% (22-for-47) from three-point territory — and they were playing at home in front of a loud and raucous crowd.
And that's everything that went right for Dallas, not taking into account what went unusually wrong for the Jazz. It's not expected for Mike Conley to go scoreless again or Gobert to miss multiple layups and alley-oop dunks.
The takeaway is that even though everything went perfectly right for Dallas and the Jazz had some irregular issues, the result was simply a six-point defeat for Utah.
Despite what happened in game two, Utah will not panic and overreact. After all, when Dallas tried to do the same thing in game one, the Jazz were much better and came out with the victory — a point of emphasis many seem to have forgotten.
Now Utah is home for two games, having accomplished their goal of splitting the series and returning to the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena. Even with Doncic expected to return at some point, the Jazz still have the upper hand in the series and will look to make the necessary adjustments to protect homecourt and prove the doubters wrong.
"You don't run from the things that you feel like you need to do better," head coach Quin Snyder said Monday. "I think there's also the flip side of that. … You don't hang your head when you play against a team that played very well tonight and the game goes down to the wire."
"We know our strengths, and we know the things that we gotta do better," Gobert added. "That's what the playoffs are about. They made their adjustment. … We will make our adjustments, and I think overall we will be better, too."