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“Half a Step Late” |  Utah battles Dallas in Game 5

Some nights the ball just doesn’t go through the hoop.

Unfortunately for the Utah Jazz on Monday night, they found out the hard way.

Despite 20 points from Jordan Clarkson, Utah lost 102-77 to Dallas in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. With the loss, the Jazz will return home to Salt Lake City for Game 6 with a chance to extend their season.

“It’s not like we haven’t competed. … We’re playing to win,” head coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “We missed shots, but I don’t just want to highlight a ‘bad shooting night’. Sometimes they look good and you take them, and sometimes it takes more. … Continuous movement, attacking and passing are what we need.

While Utah’s struggles are legit, they’re also slightly exaggerated as the Jazz didn’t knock down the shots. The offense went well until generating open shots, but the Jazz never seemed to have their legs under them throughout the game.

With Dallas pushing the tempo and getting the ball up the field quickly before attacking, Utah always appeared on their heels and never recovered. One bright spot is that the effort was there throughout the night, the Jazz never gave up and continued to fight and grind despite being in front of an explosive Mavericks crowd.

“Obviously in a game like tonight you’d like to execute better,” Snyder said. “Dallas played well, they had us hot on our heels at the start of the game. We were just half a step behind in transition, half a step behind on a fence, just half a step behind .”

Despite the Jazz’s struggles to shoot the ball, Clarkson continued to be Utah’s best and most effective offensive weapon. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals off the bench, shooting 9 of 15 from the floor.

Once again, he could attack from anywhere on the field and break through the Dallas defense at will. He often made the right basketball move, going into the paint and drawing defenders before delivering an open kick.

One bright spot was the play of Rudy Gobert, arguably the most hated person inside the American Airlines Arena, based on the crowd’s reaction every time he touched the ball. It didn’t seem to affect his level of play as he finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double.

Utah’s struggles started early as despite looking great on offense, the ball did everything but go through the hoop – allowing Dallas to take an 18-9 lead. A quick 7-1 run made it a three-point game, but Spencer Dinwiddie responded with a three, as the Jazz trailed 24-18 after one.

The Jazz continued to battle to start the second quarter, cutting the deficit to two after a three-pointer from Juancho Hernangomez, Utah’s second of the game. But Dallas took control from there, going 22-4 before Clarkson scored the final four points of the half.

Utah trailed 52-36 at the break.

The third quarter is the one the Jazz want to forget completely. Despite scoring 19 points, their highest point tally in a quarter until this point, Luka Doncic caught fire with 19 points of his own in the frame. Utah found some momentum late in the quarter when Gobert scored seven straight to make it 81-55, heading into the fourth.

As they have done all season, Utah continued to battle as they cut their 33-point lead to 21 midway through the quarter. But Dallas responded with an 8-0 run to officially put the game aside.

“Our strength has been our versatility, and the fact that we have multiple weapons, we have to be able to use them,” Snyder said. “It’s extreme tonight, but it’s the same things we talked about before. We have to keep playing for each other. … We just need each other and have to play like that offensively.”

With their season on the line, Utah returns home for Thursday’s showdown against Dallas. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST.

“You have to give them credit. … They protected the home pitch,” Mitchell said. “They could have won by fifty tonight, but it’s a game. We have to go home and take care of business. We’ll watch the movie, we’ll adjust and we’ll be ready for Thursday.”


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