SALT LAKE CITY — There were a few times on Monday it looked like the Jazz would be in for an easy night.
Like when they blitzed the Mavericks on the road early and went up by as many as 23 points in the first half. Or when they answered a strong Dallas run in the third quarter and held a 15-point lead entering the fourth. But the back-ends of back-to-backs are never easy.
And that’s why with under three minutes remaining, the Jazz still needed a big shot.
But they got it, and then another one, and added a big stop, too.
After Dallas had cut the lead to 5 with 2:41 remaining, Rudy Gobert spun inside and slammed it in over Kristaps Porzingis. Then Donovan Mitchell hit a tough baseline jumper. And then Gobert denied a driving layup.
That all led to the Jazz holding on for a 123-119 win over the Mavericks in Dallas.
Utah improved to 35-18 on the season and has now won three straight.
With 4:41 left in the third quarter, Tim Hardaway Jr. made a short jumper and suddenly the Jazz were in real trouble.
Utah had spent the first half completely in control. The Jazz scored 71 points as they jumped on the Mavericks and led by 21 at the half. Utah shot 61% in the half and it was a complete team effort. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half, Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson both had 14 and Gobert already had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Things came easy. And then they came easy for the Mavericks.
After Hardaway’s jumper, Utah’s 21-point halftime had been cut to just 3. The Mavericks had scored 30 points in a little over seven minutes, had the crowd back into the game, and looked like they were ready to overtake what looked to be a gassed Jazz team.
“I think we knew they were going to make a run,” Utah assistant coach Alex Jensen said, who spoke to the media because head coach Quin Snyder’s voice was gone. “And I think we just lost our focus. Definitely, we did a really good job in the first half and that led to a lot of baskets on offense. And then we got stagnant and didn’t drive it like we did in the first half.”
But two players helped restore order: Clarkson and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Mudiay drove full court past everyone for an easy layup, hit a jumper and then splashed home a 3. Clarkson, meanwhile, drove inside for two push shots and buried a triple of his own. The two combined for 14 of Utah’s 17 final points of the quarter.
“We've been on the wrong end of those where they come back and take the lead and the bench held it down,” Mitchell said. “JC has been playing out of his mind. Emmanual coming in back home and doing his thing. … For them to come and push it back to 16 or 17 like that — that's huge. That's what we need.”
Clarkson and Mudiay thwarted the Mavs’ comeback attempt. Well, their first second-half run at least.
The Mavericks used a 12-0 run late in the fourth to get within 5 points with 2:41 remaining.
That’s when Utah’s All-Stars came through. Gobert spun inside for a dunk — highlighting his dominance over Porzingis on Monday; Mitchell hit the fadeaway baseline jumper, and Gobert stymied a Hardaway Jr. drive. And with that, the Jazz could finally relax — on a night where it looked like they were going to be able to do so for much of the contest.
Clarkson led the Jazz with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, Mitchell added 23 and was 8 of 12 from the field, and Gobert had 17 points and 16 rebounds as the Jazz won for the third time in a row.