Mavs escape Utah as Luka advances for 1st time
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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in the Luka Doncic era, the Dallas Mavericks have advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
The Mavericks rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit for a 98-96 Game 6 closeout victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday, Dallas’ first postseason series win since the 2011 NBA Finals.
Doncic had 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to put the finishing touches on the first playoff series win of his career at Vivint Arena, which coincidentally was the site of Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki’s first postseason closeout 21 years ago.
The Jazz’s lead held up for only nine minutes, 32 seconds of the second half as the Mavs lit up the scoreboard in painfully familiar fashion for the Jazz. Dallas went to a small lineup, as they have done with success throughout the series, and got rolling by creating clean looks from 3-point range, just as the LA Clippers did while storming back from a 25-point deficit and eliminating the Jazz in the Game 6 of last season’s Western Conference semifinals.
The Mavs made as many 3-pointers in the second half — 14, the most in a playoff half in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research — as the Jazz had total field goals.
As the final buzzer sounded, Doncic waved farewell to the hostile crowd and then celebrated with his teammates. The Jazz tied the score twice in the fourth quarter. On both occasions, Doncic responded by driving and kicking to a teammate for an open 3, first by Dorian Finney-Smith and the second by Jalen Brunson.
Utah twice had opportunities to take the lead in the final minute. After Mavs guard Jalen Brunson (24 points) put the Mavs up two with 4.3 seconds remaining, the Jazz called timeout and ran a pretty inbounds pass to give Bojan Bogdanovic a good look from the left wing. But the ball bounced off the rim, ending the Jazz’s season and sending the Mavs to the second round.
Moments earlier, after Doncic missed a difficult runner over Gobert, Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr. stumbled while navigating transition traffic and was called for a travel with five seconds remaining.
Dallas dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Jazz by a 36-19 margin. The Mavs went 8-of-12 from 3-point range in the quarter, when Doncic had 10 points, including a pair of step-back 3s. Doncic had one assist in the frame, but several Dallas baskets were the result of beautiful ball movement after Doncic decisively passed out of traps and double-teams.
Ten of the Mavs’ 13 buckets in the quarter were assisted, including nine that led to uncontested shots, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking.
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