"We Continued To Attack" | Utah Overpowers Dallas In Postseason Opener

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

All week long leading up to the start of the playoffs, head coach Quin Snyder and the Jazz were asked multiple times about Utah's struggles at the end of the season. After starting the season 26-9, the Jazz finished under .500 the rest of the way as issues closing out games appeared to be their Achilles heel.

But even throughout the turmoil to close the season and all the questions asked this past week about Utah's struggles, Snyder and the Jazz remained adamant that the postseason is entirely different. They believed that everyone would see a different version of Utah once the postseason started.

It may only be the first game, but mission accomplished.

In the opening game of the 2022 NBA playoffs, Utah used a big third quarter run to take a double-digit lead in the second half before holding off a Mavericks comeback to win 99-93. With the win, the Jazz take a 1-0 series lead and have Sunday off before returning for game two on Monday night in Dallas.

"Our mental toughness was challenged," Snyder said postgame. "I don't know how many free throws they had, but a lot of their points in the fourth quarter came from the line. I think we kept our aggression. … We continued to attack."

The biggest difference for Utah, especially in the fourth quarter when Dallas made a run to get back into the game, was their mentality.

They didn't panic, understanding that the Mavericks made some good shots and got some favorable whistles. Instead, Utah continued to play tough defense and execute its offense, believing in one another that they would knock down big shots.

Mike Conley and Royce O'Neale answered the call.

They both answered scores by Dallas with big buckets of their own — but it was O'Neale's that was the most impactful.

After missing a contested drive in the final minute, he saved his own rebound from going out of bounds and passed out for an extra possession. That resulted in him knocking down a stepback three-pointer to give the Jazz a four-point lead with less than a minute to go.

"Whether I make or miss a shot, I put in the work all summer and all year. … I'm going to keep shooting," O'Neale said.

"We kept our aggression. … That's key for us," Snyder said. "Look at Royce O'Neale's three-pointer. He hadn't made a shot all game, and he didn't hesitate."

While role players keyed the game's final minutes, Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanović were sensational.

Bogdanovic was dominant in the first half, finishing with 20 points as he was easily Utah's most dangerous weapon. That was huge as Mitchell struggled mightily in the opening 24 minutes shooting the ball.

He did an excellent job of using his size and strength to back down the smaller Mavericks and make a living in the paint — but he was also aggressive and attacked often, forcing Dallas to rotate, which led to easy buckets for others.

Overall, he dropped 26 points, five rebounds, and four assists on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 2-of-6 from beyond the arc.

"Big time," Mitchell said of Bogdanovic. "We kept feeding the hot hand, kept everything simple. He was +11 on the floor. … Very impactful on both ends."

While he has been nothing short of dominant over the past two postseasons, Mitchell struggled in the first half as he admitted he was too passive to start. But the final 24 minutes belonged to him, especially the third quarter as Utah made its big push to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Beginning with getting to the rim and attacking in the midrange, Mitchell found a rhythm that opened up everything else for him. While he served as a facilitator in the first half, he was the scorer in the second, and it paid dividends.

In the end, Mitchell finished with a game-high 32 points, adding six rebounds, six assists, and an impressive 10-for-11 from the free throw line.

"Just being attack mode," Mitchell said of what changed after the break. "I came out to start a little too passive, but in the same respective, Bojan was rolling so I didn't want to force it. But I came out in the second half, competed, and went into attack mode."

The first quarter was perfect for what Dallas wanted to do with Luka Doncic on the bench in street clothes. They could slow the game down and limit the possessions, not allowing the Jazz to get out in transition. What resulted was a slow start and Utah trailing 23-20.

Utah struggled to find its way early in the second despite executing their offense and getting good looks as the ball refused to go through the hoop. But trailing by nine with just under four minutes to go, the momentum changed as the Jazz closed the half on a 13-2 run. Bogdanovic got things started with a quick five points before nailing a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to give Utah a 45-43 lead at the break.

The third quarter belonged to the Jazz as they led by as many as 12 — but Dallas refused to go away. After having its lead cut to six, Danuel House Jr. stopped the bleeding with a tough layup, but that was followed by a Mavericks three-pointer with less than a minute to play. However, House responded with a three of his own in the corner as the Jazz led 73-65 entering the fourth.

Utah led by 11 midway through the fourth before the Mavericks responded with an 11-2 run to make it a two-point game with 3:23 to play. Conley never let Dallas tie it up, getting buckets on back-to-back possessions before O'Neale's three-pointer sealed the win.

"We were just happy to win the game," Rudy Gobert said. "They had a lot of free throws at the end but we stayed focused. We raised our level and our physicality after the first quarter and we made things hard for them. … We became less predictable down the stretch."

Gobert was as dominant defensively as he's ever been, finishing with 17 rebounds and three blocks while adding five points. Conley added 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists, while Jordan Clarkson chipped in 10 points off the bench.