You may have heard this one before …
The Utah Jazz, playing with energy and passion and enthusiasm and effort and smarts, build up a double-digit lead.
And then …
The Utah Jazz, relaxing way too much, getting sloppy on defense, no longer sharing the ball on the other end, fully relinquish said double-digit lead.
What’s been a problem for the team all season was a problem again Thursday night at Vivint Arena. And this time, there’s no “next time” to fix it.
With their 98-96 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, the Jazz’s season is over.
They lost their best-of-seven first-round series 4-2.
A season that began with championship aspirations instead ended with yet another too-early postseason ouster.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team, the way that we competed tonight,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “Obviously, the result speaks for itself, but it was a pleasure coaching this group.”
After their latest sketchy start from 3-point range, Utah’s players soon enough figured out that they could assert control simply by driving down the lane every time.
Despite shooting just 5 of 17 beyond the arc in the first half, they surged to a 12-point lead as a result of making 13 of 20 shots in the second period — eight of them at the rim and 15 in the paint — to rack up 32 points in the period.
The much-discussed ball movement that the team admitted had been lacking in prior games also made a reappearance, as the Jazz collected 14 assists (eight of them from Mike Conley) on 22 made baskets.
Meanwhile, defensively, there were moments of aggression and solid rotations, and moments of confusion and miscommunication, resulting in a ton of open looks. Either way, Dallas struggled getting the ball in the basket, hitting just 38.6% overall and going an abysmal 3 of 18 from deep.
In the third period, Utah’s ball movement and multiple actions dried up, and the team settled for ineffectual tries from deep.
The Mavs also turned their focus to the 3-ball, but they had considerably more success.
Dallas shot 8 of 12 from beyond the arc, and 13 of 20 overall, in outscoring the Jazz 36-19 in the third. That hard-earned advantage was erased by the 1:39 mark of the period.
The Jazz were never out of it.
“I have unbelievable respect for our guys in the way we played. I thought we were fearless and aggressive,” Snyder said. “No shame in the way we played. … We got beat, and that’s a shame. I thought we played well enough to win this game.”
Indeed, after tailing 88-80 deep in the fourth, they surged back with an 8-0 run — capped by a Donovan Mitchell drive and feed to Rudy Gobert — to tie things up.
And then, on the next possession, neither Gobert nor Bojan Bogdanovic rotated to Dorian Finney-Smith, who buried yet another 3 for the Mavericks.
A few more times, the Jazz would try to seize the momentum, and bring the home crowd to a crescendo, and they had their chances — a Bogey 3, a Gobert lay-in …
After forcing Luka Doncic into one last miss, the Jazz even had a chance to go down and take the lead with seconds remaining — only for Mike Conley to commit a traveling violation with five seconds to play. Jalen Brunson going just 1 of 2 at the line even gave Utah one final chance.
Bogdanovic was sprung for an open 3, fumbled the pass, gathered it in, relocated, got another open look … and came up short.
A disappointing end to a disappointing season.
“We didn’t need a 3, but we thought we’d take a shot at it,” Snyder said. “And no better guy to take it. Nobody’s feeling it more than him.”
Mitchell finished with 23 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds. Gobert had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Jordan Clarkson added 15 points and six boards.