SALT LAKE CITY — Luke Doncic thinks he can score on anyone. To advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time, he had to trust his teammates.
After previous playoffs filled with individual highlights, Doncic shared the ball and the Dallas Mavericks passed the Utah Jazz.
“I like to share the ball. If they’re going to hit me or blitz me, somebody’s going to be open,” said Doncic.
Doncic and Jalen Brunson each scored 24 points and the Mavericks beat the Jazz 98-96 Thursday night in Game 6 to wrap up the first-round series.
“It was all about trust,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “Luka did an amazing job knowing they were going to try and take the ball out of his hands.”
After Brunson hit a 3-pointer from the corner, Mike Conley was called for traveling with five seconds left, and Brunson made one of two free throws with 4.3 seconds left.
“I played with Luka for the past two years, I should expect the ball when I don’t expect it. The ball found me,” Brunson said of his 3-point clutch.
The Jazz had an open eye on Bojan Bogdanovic on the left wing in the final game, but he fell short and the Mavericks faced top-seeded Phoenix in the second round.
“Bogey doesn’t miss many of those. My heart stopped. It felt like that shot was 15 seconds in the air,” said Doncic, who had nine rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and two steals.
Spencer Dinwiddie added 19 points and Dorian Finney-Smith had a playoff career-high 18 points as the Mavericks finally got the “monkey off their back,” as Kidd put it.
The Mavericks won the first round for the first time since winning the 2011 NBA championship.
“We’ve played a lot of playoff games and we still haven’t reached the second round. But we feel like we can do something big this year, so we all expected to get this win,” Finney-Smith said.
Donovan Mitchell had 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Utah.
“I’m speechless,” Mitchell said of not moving forward. “It’s on me. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I just wasn’t what I needed to be. I need to be better.
Bogdanovic finished with 19 points, but couldn’t make the shot that would have given him the win.
“Obviously Bojan is as eye-catching a player as there is. You see him hitting big shot after big shot,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I think everyone in the dressing room would like him to have that chance.”
Bogdanovic was discouraged.
“There are no excuses. I needed to hit that shot to force Game 7,” he said.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Finney-Smith’s 3-pointer gave the Mavericks their biggest lead at 88-80 before the Jazz scored eight straight games – many coming off choppy plays as the Utah was playing with desperation – culminating with a dunk from Mitchell to Rudy Gobert. .
The Mavericks found their lineup in the third quarter as the Jazz attempted multiple defenses but somehow seemed to leave someone alone behind the arc. Doncic had 10 points and Dallas went 8 of 12 from 3-point range to outscore Utah 36-19 in the third quarter.
“For guys like me, that’s where I start to smile,” Finney-Smith said of the ball movement to start the second half. “That’s when we get our spotlight. Luka creates so much pressure and then he finds guys.
The Mavericks shot 56% (14 of 25) from 3-point range after halftime, but several Dallas players credited their defense for the win.
Despite a size disadvantage and the fact that Utah had the most effective offense in the NBA in the regular season, Dallas held the Jazz to just 99 points per game in the series.
ALREADY SEEN FOR DALLAS?
Eleven years ago on this same date, Kidd was part of the Dallas team that defeated the Portland Trail Blazers and advanced to the second round.
“You make me feel old. It’s been a long time since we won in Portland, and I just remember a lot of people didn’t think we were going to get out of the first round,” Kidd said.
The former point guard said this Dallas team is a special group, like the 2011 champions.
“These guys aren’t very big, but they find a way to win and they have fun doing it,” Kidd said.
BRUNSON PROVES TO BE KEY
Jalen Brunson averaged 27.8 points in the series and kept the Mavericks ahead of the Jazz, including a 41-point run in Game 2, until Doncic returned from a calf injury.
“We got everything we could from JB. Starting the series without Luka and having JB and Spencer carry us around until he comes back, then having to play with Luka. He was really big for us,” Kidd said.
Mavericks: Dallas missed all 10 3-point attempts in the first quarter. “Our shoulders were close to our ears, we were so tense,” Kidd said. The teams combined to start 1 for 17 from beyond the arc. … The Mavericks shot 11 free throws, a low streak. … Dallas was again in single digit turnovers, with nine.
Jazz: Conley had eight assists at halftime, but none in the second half. … Utah edged Dallas 48-37. … Utah assistant coach Keyon Dooling was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after being added to a fraud case involving the league’s health and welfare benefits plan.
The Mavericks and Suns open the second round Monday night in Phoenix.