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DALLAS — There were 40 minutes left until tipoff when the Utah Jazz had to change the game plan.
Rudy Gobert was a late scratch with lateral right leg contusion. Hassan Whiteside was already out, as was Udoka Azubuike, and soon-to-be-signed Greg Monroe was meeting the team in Los Angeles.
So in one of the biggest games of the season, the Jazz didn't have any bigs.
For a team that has built its identity around vertical spacing and rim protection, that was a hard task. So it was a surprise the Jazz were up by 8 after the first quarter, using a surprisingly stingy switching defense; and even more so when they still led at halftime.
The injuries, though, finally caught up.
Dallas dominated the second half en route to a 114-100 victory on Sunday at American Airlines Center.
"This is one of those times you come in after a loss and you're proud of your team," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "There were times that Luka (Doncic) was the biggest player on the floor, but I thought our guys dug in. I thought we battled. Keep doing that, get some guys healthy — keep that same mindset."
Doncic was phenomenal — 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — and the Mavericks adjusted to Utah's different defensive looks by forcing the much-shorter Mike Conley onto the superstar and letting him go to work.
That was the catalyst to Dallas's game-changing 32-20 third quarter rally that put them in control. But just the fact the Jazz forced Dallas to make any type of adjustment was seen as a partial win.
With less than an hour before the game, the Jazz had to go to a game plan they hadn't seen great success with this season. Going small has been a minor disaster over the course of the season, but in the first quarter something clicked.
The Jazz were stout on the perimeter and executed switches time and time again. Yes, they were beat to some boards, as would be expected, and they got a tough whistle against Doncic, but for the most part, they were solid.
"Our trouble switching, it's just getting used to it — I don't think it's a real problem to get used to it," said Rudy Gay, who led the Jazz with 16 points. "We have Big Fella (Gobert) out there, and usually when he's out there, we don't do it. So when he's not out there we're a totally different team and he's a big part of our offense and defense.
"He makes $40 million a year so obviously he's important — that's something we got to get used to. Something we haven't had to get used to. But something we have to get used to."
There's no timetable for Gobert's return (contusions aren't often long-term injuries), but Mitchell said his absence forced the Jazz in a way that could resemble a playoff matchup. And, at least early, the Jazz thrived.
"It's tough to just kind of think all day doing one thing and then (change it)," Donovan Mitchell said. "And then to come out there against a team that's hungry and wants this. We came out with some energy, some fire, so I'm really happy with the guys that suited up back to it because it could have gone the other way real quick."
Actually, that's what most expected to happen when the news of Gobert sitting out was announced; however, the Jazz played more connected than they had in weeks. Mitchell and Conley were able to break the paint on offense, generating open looks for teammates. Utah had five players with eight or more points at the half.
The injuries, though, didn't just come before the game — they came during it, too.
In the third quarter, Dwight Powell landed on Mitchell's ankle, which caused it to turn. Mitchell fell to the ground and slapped the court in pain. He gingerly got up and hobbled to the bench where he looked in obvious discomfort.
A few minutes later, he was back on the court, but was in obvious discomfort. He didn't have his usual burst and struggled to change directions, especially on the defensive end.
By that point, the Mavericks had already taken an 11-point lead and with a hobbled Mitchell and no Bogdanovic and Gobert, the Jazz didn't have enough to attempt a comeback.
The Jazz didn't get a win, but they left with some pride.
"We can talk about some of the things that happened in the game whether it's a make or a miss, but I thought the biggest thing is we competed," Snyder said.