"We Defended To Win" | Utah Rallies Late To Even Series With Dallas

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

Throughout the season, the rumors surrounding the Utah Jazz have been swirling.

But it turns out the loudest rumor turned out to be the biggest lie.

Contrary to popular belief, Donovan Mitchell does pass the ball to Rudy Gobert — and it came at the perfect time.

With 11 seconds remaining, trailing by one, and the season hanging in the balance, Mitchell and Gobert ran the pick-and-roll to perfection. After being double-teamed, Mitchell found Gobert for an alley-oop dunk, giving the Jazz a lead they would never relinquish.

After showing some resiliency and fight, Utah overcame a late deficit by scoring the game's final five points to pull out the 100-99 victory. With the win, Utah has even the series at 2-2 as it now becomes a best-of-three starting Monday in Dallas — and it means the Jazz will be returning to Vivint Arena for game six on Thursday.

"It was metaphoric on some level," head coach Quin Snyder said postgame. "We defended to win tonight. You can't say enough about Bojan's (Bogdanovic) competitiveness. … That made everyone more urgent."

"I think it's funny, man," Mitchell said postgame. "But it felt good because you hear the things. … We trust each other."

While Mitchell and Gobert combined for the final points in the end, Bojan Bogdanovic was sensational throughout.

Before the series started, Bogdanovic alluded to Utah having a few "secret weapons" that they would be able to use that might help. Not only was he right, but he was also the one proving his own point as his defense throughout the game was relentless.

With Jalen Brunson and Luka Doncic playing well by using their size and/or strength to wreak havoc through three games, Snyder mixed things up on Saturday afternoon and gave Bogdanovic the assignment of defending them. A bigger and stronger defender, Bogdanovic frustrated the Mavericks all game long, even picking them up the length of the court — a notion that the Vivint Arena crowd noticed and appreciated.

Despite expending so much energy defensively, he was still effective on the other end of the court, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists.

"That was the coaches idea, and I also wanted to guard their best players," Bogdanovic said. "I just wanted to bother them. … I tried to pressure them full court. It's a lot of energy you spend guarding full court, especially since you're involved in every single action. I think the whole team did a great job defensively."

"It set the tone for us from the first quarter when he started pressuring," Gobert said of Bogdanovic. "Everyone started doing it as well. … It's contagious, and sometimes that's all it takes to spark something. We found out that's who we are, that's the team we want to be. … Play every game like it's our last game."

With Bogdanovic typically serving as the secondary scorer for the Jazz but much of his energy being used on the defensive end, it meant someone else was going to need to step up.

Jordan Clarkson, who's been sensational in the playoffs, answered the call.

He finished with a team-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor, including an efficient 3-of-5 from three-point territory. He added four rebounds and finished with a +18 rating in 36 minutes.

The reigning sixth man of the year gave Utah a lift and really frustrated Dallas with a bevy of moves inside and outside the arc. His ability to break down any defender and get to the paint was dominant, allowing the Jazz to be in rhythm when the ball would get kicked out to open shooters.

"When I walked into the gym. … I'm still the same guy just trying to win a game," Clarkson said about when he knew he was feeling it. "I'm just staying in the moment and doing what I can to help."

"He's locked in on both ends," Mitchell said of Clarkson. "The way he finished tonight's game, he's doing everything. He's hitting his shots, but he's also being able to get into the paint and create. and find guys. … He's a guy that steps up every time."

Despite being in front of a loud and raucous crowd, the Mavericks did their best to take the fans out of it by jumping out to a 13-5 lead as Doncic and Brunson combined for a quick eight points. But through a much more concentrated effort on the defensive end, Utah climbed back into the game and led 24-23 after Clarkson drilled a three-pointer at the end.

While the defensive intensity stayed up through the second quarter, the Jazz were able to settle in offensively. The Jazz used a 9-2 run in the middle of the quarter for their first double-digit lead of the game. After Dallas used a mini-run to get closer, Bogdanovic lit up the crowd again with a three-pointer late as Utah led 54-42 at the break.

It was assumed that Dallas, who has had played brilliantly all series, would respond in the second half — and it didn't take long. The Mavericks caught fire from beyond the arc as they opened the third with a 15-5 run, knocking down 8-for-11 from three-point territory to lead 81-78 entering the fourth.

The final 12 minutes were all about the defense as both teams went scoreless before a Gobert dunk with less than nine minutes to play. The game went back-and-forth for the remainder of the quarter before a thrilling finish in which the stars were out in full effect.

With Dallas leading by one, Doncic hushed the crowd when he drilled a three-pointer over Gobert with 39.6 seconds to play. On the other end, Mitchell was able to answer, grabbing his own offensive rebound and putting it back up for the bucket and the foul to make it a one-point game.

Dwight Powell missed two free throws on the ensuing possession, setting the stage for Mitchell's pass and Gobert's dunk.

Utah got a stop on the final possession as they double-teamed Doncic late, forcing him to give the ball up to Spencer Dinwiddie, whose three-pointer came up short after being strongly contested by Gobert.

"This is the team we want to be, this is who we are," Gobert said. "Now, do it every night, every minute. … Whoever is on the court, play with intensity."

Mitchell finished with 23 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two assists, while Gobert added 17 points and 15 rebounds (10 offensive). Juancho Hernangomez knocked down two big three-pointers while Hassan Whiteside was dominant defensively with three blocks in 14 minutes.

Utah now heads to Dallas for game five on Monday night — with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. MST.