When he saw Luka Dončić get his first action of the playoffs on Saturday, Utah backup center Hassan Whiteside sort of felt like things were returning to normal.
“I think it was a little more familiar,” Whiteside said Monday morning after Utah’s shootaround at American Airlines Center. “We were a lot more familiar with Luka being out there. It was more of a familiar face.”
Familiar, but not necessarily easier to deal with or preferable to Jalen Brunson or Spencer Dinwiddie penetrating into the paint and causing fits like they did for the first three games of the series.
But seeing Luka was something the Jazz had seen many times before, which sometimes can allow a team to know what to expect, which could help in Game 5 Monday night at 8:30 p.m.
During a long playoff series, it’s sometimes a good idea to put yourself in the other team’s shoes. Maverick fans like to rip on the refs, the national television analysts or anybody else that disparages their team.
But the Jazz have their grumbles, too. And they feel like they got a fair shake in Game 4. They weren’t so certain about Games 2 and 3.
Rudy Gobert, who anchors the Jazz’s defense and ripped down 10 offensive rebounds in Game 4, said after shootaround that he now is clear at what the Mavericks are trying to do when they are trying to defend the Jazz.
“Their whole game plan is to hit me on every rebound,” Gobert said. “You’ve got guys running to try to box me out with elbows out, stuff like that, grabbing me. So it’s their game plan. In Game 3, I didn’t get none of those calls. So I didn’t think it was fair.
“In Game 4, I get a few. Not all of them, I got a few of those calls. You know, it’s part of the game. They try to make sure I don’t get offensive rebounds and they (referees) allow them to do a lot more. So I think they (Mavericks) should be happy about that.”
The Mavericks weren’t happy about much from Game 4. The NBA’s last 2 minute report said that Donovan Mitchell was guilty of an offensive foul going against Dwight Powell with 33.8 seconds left, but that call was not made and was deemed an incorrect no-call on the last 2 minute report.
That’s all well and good, although it changes nothing, except maybe a more watchful eye for such things in Game 5 by the referees.
“That’s just part of the game,” Mavericks’ coach Jason Kidd said. “They try and get it right. And referees got a hard job. It’s hard to see things happen so fast and blow the whistle. A lot of it is judgment. But the referees got to do a job and the league has to do a job with the report after the fact. You can be upset, but you got to move forward. And for us, it’s about Game 5, not about the report from the last game or game before.”
There will continue to be subtle adjustments. Both teams will still try to get away with as much as they can to gain any sliver of an advantage.
And the offensive rebounding of the Jazz will continue to be a major concern.
“We just didn’t have a body on him,” Kidd said. “If you let him loose, he’s going to come up with those offensive rebounds. We got to stay attached to him.
“That game 4, that was one of the first times we let him go free. We just have to do a better job of paying attention to where he is on the floor.”
Different look: The Jazz got a boost in Game 4 when Bojan Bogdanovic often picked up Dončić full court defensively.
“We need that energy for the rest of the series and the rest of the playoffs,” said Whiteside. “Bogey picking up full court like that was really inspiring. I told him we need that every time. We got to leave these games exhausted. Come in and take a nap. It’s that simple. Just come in and leaving it on the floor. It’s go time.”
Whiteside said he’s a bit superstitious when it comes to good karma.
And he had a message to the rest of the Jazz.
“I told my teammates, whatever y’all ate, eat it again,” he said. “However y’all slept, do it again. If we come out with that (same) energy, we’ll be in a good spot.”