Dallas • After pulling off a 99-93 victory over the host Mavericks in Saturday’s Game 1, the Utah Jazz were naturally thrilled to have stolen a crucial victory on the road and flipped home-court advantage.
They were also naturally inclined to focus on the things that didn’t go that well, in what was largely a slog of a game against an opponent missing one of the league’s premier superstars.
And so, as the team assembled Sunday at their opulent hotel for a film session, to be followed by an optional shooting session at American Airlines Center, they had the good, the bad and the ugly of Game 1 on their minds.
After all, with Game 2 coming on Monday night, they’re hardly satisfied with where they are, and the goal very much remains, “Get another one and get to Utah with a big lead,” as forward Bojan Bogdanovic put it.
He and point guard Mike Conley met with the media Sunday morning to discuss what went well, and what will need some adjustment going forward in the first-round series. Fortunately for them, they feel there’s a lot more of the former than the latter.
Keep it up
Not forcing 3s: “They do a good job with [Dwight] Powell and [Maxi] Kleber and [Davis] Bertans of being up in pick-and-roll. They crowd the 3-point line and almost force you into a drive,” said Conley. “What we did well was we didn’t hoist ‘em just to hoist ‘em, we took what was given to us; they opened up the lane and we drove it. … You kind of have to take what you’re given at points in the series and hope that they adjust later.”
Rolling with Bogey post-ups: “I just went out aggressive,” said Bogdanovic. “They were ready for Mike and Donovan and their pick-and-rolls, and so I was just trying to take advantage, especially in early offense and transition when they were all the way denying both of them.”
Finishing strong: “It was massive, especially the way that the last month of the season was in regard to fourth quarters and the stigma that we can’t finish games,” said Conley. “For us to do it when it matters most, in a hostile environment, against a team that’s playing good basketball …”
Capitalizing on optionality: “We just have a bunch of different options. We played pick-and-roll with Mike, and Mike hit a floater and a long two. Royce hit a big 3, Donovan hit a runner at the beginning of the fourth quarter, I had my post-ups,” said Bogdanovic. “So we had basically three or four guys with the ball who could make big plays for us.
“… That was the game, basically. They were switching 1 through 5, so we were trying to attack from the outside and we had success,” he added. “But of course we want to involve Rudy, because he’s a big part of what we’re doing, both offensively and defensively. Just knowing that he had one shot allows us to have shots because they’re so occupied and thinking about him.”
Halfcourt defense/rebounding: “It’s all about our defense. If we defend like we did [Saturday], we’re going to have a great chance to win the second game as well,” said Bogdanovic. “… You feel when your guy beats you, that [Rudy Gobert is] going to be there. It’s great that he’s not thinking about his shot, it’s really tough because we all know how good he is. That he stays focused and protects our backs says a lot about him and our team and the trust that we have.”
“One emphasis was on crashing — crashing the glass,” added Conley. “We knew that they were gonna play small. … Winning that rebounding game would be key.”
Having trust, setting aside egos: Bogey’s comment about Gobert’s single field-goal attempt is an intriguing point. When asked postgame about how the Mavs held him to one shot, Gobert smirked a bit and replied, “That’s a good one.” Then he ultimately acknowledged he’d like more shots, but at this point of the season, it’s about making sacrifices for the greater good.
Both Conley and Bogdanovic said as much Sunday.
“Both trust and ego [are important]. We’ve got to put our ego to the side and trust each other, especially in these moments in the playoffs,” said Bogey. “We are here because we’re a good team, and we have quality. We really have a great group of guys who aren’t looking for individual stats. Especially like Rudy Gobert, having just one shot yesterday and being the best player on the floor. It’s amazing, I don’t know any other NBA player who can do that.”
“Each guy trusted each other, each guy made plays when it mattered,” agreed Conley. “Rudy was huge for us on the defensive end last night. Donovan made big plays, Royce hit a big shot — it was just a cool way to win a game.”
Needs some work
Finishing at the rim: Conley said he liked the way the team got into the paint, but they did a poor job sometimes of turning those drives into baskets. “Especially in the first half, we had a lot of opportunities in the paint. We did a good job of breaking the paint. We need to continue to do that and to make plays — sometimes the ball got stuck a little bit,” he said. “… We could have finished six or seven [shots at the rim] in the early portion of the game that we had. We had a lot of good looks in the paint.”
Picking up the pace: While Conley said he liked the speed with which the Jazz played, he acknowledged they ultimately could have gone faster. Bogey doubled down, noting the importance of generating some easier baskets in transition.
“I think just playing with more pace. It’s our basketball, but we weren’t able to get any transition threes, so it’s going to be a challenge for us to have to run more,” Bogey said.
Transition defense: A season-long issue, the Jazz still weren’t happy with how they executed in this area Saturday. “When they got out in transition, we didn’t [always] locate our man, and they got some easy buckets, easy 3s, easy layups, and that really unites them. We need to do better in transition,” said Conley. “… They really got out [in transition] for a couple quarters there and made some plays.”