Of the NBA’s five Christmas Day games, the Dallas Mavericks at the Utah Jazz was not a polarizing game that causal NBA fans would enjoy. The Utah Jazz are a team that sits near the top of the Western Conference, but doesn’t get the same attention as a less than 0.500% team that includes the Los Angeles Lakers (16-18) and the Celtics. Boston (16-17). Utah continues to perform at a high level while remaining an underrated artist in the West, which they like.
On Christmas Day, the Jazz faced a team of Mavericks without their star point guard in Luke Doncic. On the other hand, the Jazz played against the Mavericks with all of their star players. The Jazz beat 120-116 in a Christmas night thriller.
Despite their star players, the Jazz struggled to create a spark on the offensive end of the court. The Mavericks outscored the Jazz 34-25 in the first quarter.
The Mavericks shot 11 of 22 in field goals in the first quarter, while the Jazz got cold in the first quarter shooting 9 of 24 in field goals and 2 of 10 from the three-point arc. Jazz goaltender Donovan Mitchell was among the players with a difficult shooting performance to start the game. In the first quarter, Mitchell scored just two of his seven field goals, also missing his four shots from behind the three-point arc.
As the match progressed, the Jazz, led by Mitchell and small striker Bojan Bogdanovic, found a good rhythm in the second quarter throughout the game. Mitchell adapted to his inefficient deep shooting performance by leading into the paint for easy layups. Mitchell suffered a constant foul while standing on the free throw line. He was 10 of 11 at the free throw line. Three of the Mavericks committed five fouls.
Bogdanovic continues to be an efficient and dangerous shooter for the Jazz. He scored 25 points with 9 of 14 shots from the basket, 4 of 8 on the three-point arc and 3 of 4 on the free throw line against the Mavericks. Leaders Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson were effectively securing points on the board for Utah as the Dallas defense tried to focus on controlling Mitchell and Bogdanovic.
Defensively, the Jazz continued to do what they do best, cluttering up the paint and playing tight male cover on the Mavericks. Utah forced Dallas to return the ball 14 times on Christmas Day as Mitchell counted for two interceptions and center Rudy Gobert counted for interceptions. Gobert and center Hassan Whiteside were both a field defensive force for the Jazz. Gobert counted as two blocks while Whiteside counted as three blocks.
The Jazz’s guards and forwards had made the biggest difference forcing a three-point shooting attack like Dallas to go just 33.3% (10 of 30) behind the three-point arc. Gobert and Conley were the only starters on the positive side of the plus / minus. They were the only starters to have contributed more points than allowed by the Mavericks. Each of Utah’s four bench players was on the plus side of the plus / minus.
As of Sunday morning, December 26, the Jazz are first in the NBA in points per game (116) because they are effective at exploiting the defensive weaknesses of the opposing team and taking timely shots. The Jazz have five players averaging 14 points or more this season. Mitchell is averaging 25.4 points per game, shooting 55.8 percent in two-point overall percentage.
Bogdanovic is averaging 17.4 points per game, shooting 48.3% in field goal percentage and 43.7% from the three-point arc. Finally, Gobert averages 15.4 points per game by dominating and making effective shots in the paint.
The Jazz are a team that can compete at a high level as they finished the regular season last year with the best overall record. They were able to take the next step to playing at an electric level in the playoffs because of their conservative offensive style of play. Donovan Mitchell is a player who can take over as an elite playmaker. He has a strong roster of teammates, some on the bench and a 2020-2021 NBA Coach of the Year finalist in Head Coach Quin Snyder. They have the tools and the keys to defeat the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors in the playoffs; they need the opportunity.