Jazz vs. Mavericks Game 1 Preview: Utah Has Edge Against Shorthanded Dallas

Action Network Senior NBA Writer Matt Moore previews Game 1 of the Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks Round 1 series.

Jazz vs. Mavericks Odds

Jazz Odds -5
Mavericks Odds +5
Over/Under 209.5
Time 1 p.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The NBA Playoffs open with this matchup between the No. 4 Dallas Mavericks and No. 5 Utah Jazz in the West. The excitement has been dampened a bit with the news from Shams Charania that Luka Doncic is not expected to play with his calf strain.

Still, Utah has been wildly inconsistent this season and over the past month, and without Doncic, the pressure ramps up on the road.

Can the Jazz win what is essentially a must-win without Doncic and, more importantly, can they cover the spread? Will this be a defensive slugfest or an offensive showcase in the playoff opener?

Let’s bet Mavs-Jazz Game 1.

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Jazz Should Have Talent Edge

As you might expect, the Luka Doncic injury changes everything.

The Jazz held Spencer Dinwiddie to just 0.840 points per possession and a 44% eFG when Rudy Gobert was defending the screener in pick-and-roll this season. Guard Jalen Brunson averaged 0.939 points per possession, 44.7% eFG, while Doncic averaged  1.08 points per possession and a 59.8% eFG.

That’s a monster drop-off.

The Mavericks’ defense is still stout, but without Doncic to apply pressure, the Jazz will get more opportunities to push pace and force mismatches in mid-transition, despite being a slow-paced team. The Jazz are happy to trade punches in a slugfest with how efficient their offense is, even if the Mavericks go to a switch-all scheme.

The Mavericks’ lone defensive weakness is against drives, so Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley should be able to produce if they can get past the initial line of defense.

Gobert is also likely to put up more points than usual with the Mavericks’ offensive rebounding issues. He played 34 minutes in the three games he played in, scoring 12, 14, and 10 points, all beneath his 14.5 over/under.

At that number, I think it’s a stay-away, but I want to see if I can find anywhere with Hassan Whiteside props considering how well he played against Dallas this season.

If this were any other team — with this profile in this spot — laying five points against the Mavs without Doncic, it would be an automatic smash spot.

But the Jazz just consistently play down to competition and seem to suffer the worst kinds of collapses. If Utah is up 15 with eight minutes to go in the fourth, I’m not going to feel good about the moneyline, let alone the spread.

How Quickly Will Mavericks Adjust?

Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Doncic could miss the first two games of the series, but I would advise playing that one by ear and not getting ahead of one’s self. Tim Hardaway Jr. is out, and Maxi Kleber practiced in full Wednesday.

Utah allows the 10th-most 3-pointers per 100 possession out of the pick-and-roll, just an average conversion rate (16th at 52.15% eFG). Without Doncic to put pressure on the rim with drives, and given Brunson’s size and difficulty against long defenders, expect a lot of 3-point attempts for Dallas, which will put some value on individual 3-pointers props due to desperation.

Gobert’s going to roam the paint and the Jazz will not be as scared by Brunson or Dinwiddie attacking them. Dwight Powell always finds ways to score more than he should in these matchups, sneaking for lobs and duck-ins, he may wind up being the player that Utah lives with offensively.

Dallas’ defense is stout but this number is painfully low. The Mavs can stagnate the Jazz offense with switches, but there are ways around it, especially with how high up the Mavericks’ defenders tend to play.

Dallas went 9-7-1 against the spread this season without Doncic, but were just 4-4 ATS against playoff teams.

Jazz-Mavericks Pick

The number has fallen way too low — a full 10 points since open. I’ll have the Jazz moneyline in parlays as well. I am planning on betting the Mavericks to win the series after Game 1 regardless of outcome, you can read more about that in my series preview.

As I wrote above, Dallas will likely get 3-point heavy in this one. I also like Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock 3-pointer props over 2.5, Hassan Whiteside points and rebounds overs at any book that will post them, and the over up to 210.

Pick: Jazz -5 | Over 209 | Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock Over 2.5 Made 3-Pointers