SALT LAKE CITY – For the second game in a row with Luka Doncic out nursing a sprained left ankle, Spencer Dinwiddie put a 30-plus point night on the scoreboard.
However, unlike Thursday night when Dinwiddie’s 36 points helped the Dallas Mavericks defeat the Phoenix Suns, his 35 points weren’t enough Saturday night as the Mavs came up short, 108-100, against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena.
The loss dropped the Mavs to 1-1 on this brief two-game trip as they head home with a 26-25 record going into Monday’s game at American Airlines Center against the Detroit Pistons.
Dinwiddie was playing so well against the Jazz, that they resorted to doing to him what teams have often done to Doncic – doubling him to take the ball out of his hands. That’s how impactful Dinwiddie was against Utah.
“Luka is one of a kind, and you can’t replicate him,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “But Spencer Dinwiddie does a pretty good job of getting close in terms of their style of play. He’s a heckuva pick-and-roll player (and) he’s a heckuva of an isolation player.”
Nevertheless, Dinwiddie knows the Mavs are a far more efficient team with Doncic on the court.
“He’s an MVP,” he said. “We’re not going to be better without him. That’s not the way the game works, but we understand our role, we understand what we have to do.
“Obviously, I’m a person who has a little bit more volume (without Doncic on the floor). We’ve got to play a little bit faster and try to get some easy buckets in transition, because we’re not going to have that post-up threat and some of that halfcourt efficiency with the way he draws fouls and things like that. But we’ll still be able to generate some good clean open looks for our shooters as we did tonight, and we’ve got to knock them down.”
Reggie Bullock (19 points, five rebounds) knocked down a huge three-pointer which got the Mavs within 103-98 of the Jazz with 2:37 left. But Lauri Markkanen drilled a three-pointer of his own, then tacked on a free throw and the Jazz built a comfortable 107-98 lead with 1:45 remaining.
Markkanen finished with a team-high 29 points and the Jazz enjoyed a decisive 49-31 advantage on the boards against the Mavs, including a 13-7 edge in offensive rebounds
“Even (playing) small, sometimes giving up the offensive rebounds, we just can’t give up that three,” coach Jason Kidd said. “That’s the one thing that’s happening is we’re giving up the three after that offensive rebound.
“A tip-in or something like that, that doesn’t hurt you. The threes hurt you, and in that first half they got a lot of those offensive rebounds that turned into threes.”
The Jazz jumped on the Mavs rather quickly. With Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton and Markkanen scoring seven points apiece, Utah opened up a 34-23 lead after the first quarter.
That lead swelled to 66-48 at the half and to as much as 19 points (74-55) in the third quarter.
“Markkanen will be an All-Star,” Kidd said. “He’s playing at an All-Star level and they’ve got guys that can flat out shoot the ball. It’s hard to win here.”
Still, the Mavs showed some moxie as they strung together enough defensive stops and a strut in their steps on the offensive end of the floor to get back in the game. With Dinwiddie scoring 12 points in the third quarter, the Mavs closed to within 82-76 following a three-pointer by Dinwiddie with 37.5 seconds remaining before the fourth quarter started.
It was a third quarter that saw the Mavs outscore the Jazz, 28-18.
“It’s just the small details in that first half they took advantage of, and I thought in the second half after we talked about it the guys came out and executed what we had to do,” Kidd said. “Again, I love the way that we came out after halftime and competed.
“We’re going to give up some offensive rebounds, we’re going to give up some layups. But the big news is the guys put themselves in position to win the game.”
And with Doncic out, the Mavs know that’s not too much to ask for. Especially since the Mavs were also without their second-leading scorer, Christian Wood, who has a fractured left thumb.
“Overall, I don’t think the tide of this game was terrible outside of probably the first quarter when we gave up a little bit too many points,” Dinwiddie said. “But we had a really good third quarter — obviously defensively — and kind of picked it up. Just not quite enough.”
The Jazz cranked it up at the outset of the fourth quarter and led, 89-78, with 9:26 remaining in the game after Malik Beasley beat the 24-second shot clock with a long three-pointer and Markkanen notched a three-pointer after the Jazz grabbed an offensive rebound.
“They’re winning games when everyone thought they were going in a different direction, and they’re well-coached,” Kidd said. “Will’s done a really good job of putting his guys in position to be successful.
“But when you look at them, they’re playing fast and loose and shooting a lot of threes and having fun doing it.”
The Mavs were 18-of-46 from three-point land for 39.1 percent, while the Jazz were 13-of-36 from downtown for 36.1 percent.
“They hit some really timely threes,” Dinwiddie said. “I know Markkanen hit one, I think Beasley hit a couple late clock when we were making a run. Again, if we don’t put ourselves down (by 19 points), then we’re not in that situation.
“But you also got to credit them for hitting big shots because if they don’t we come down and score, it cuts it again, it changes the flow. But they hit big-time shots and they’re a great three-point shooting team and they’ve played with a lot of energy all year. Markkanen is probably going to be an All-Star, and deservingly so. Beasley is a great shooter, and they hit big-time shots.”
Besides Dinwiddie and Bullock, the Mavs received some solid contributions from Josh Green (11 points, five assists), Dorian Finney-Smith (11 points, nine rebounds, two steals) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (10 points, two steals). But with Beasley (19 points), Clarkson (14 points, seven rebounds) and Walker Kessler (14 points, 11 boards, five blocks) creating havoc, the Jazz were able to improve to 26-26 on the season.
“I think the guys did a great job in the second half,” Kidd said. “It wasn’t pretty, but to come out in the second half and execute on both sides, we just needed more shots to go down for us.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries, but the character in that locker room is high. We believe that in the second half that we can play. It’s not about the injuries. We’ve got to play with the guys in uniform. That’s just the way the league is, and I thought, again, the guys fought.”
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