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With All-Star point guard Luka Doncic still sidelined with a calf strain, the Dallas Mavericks were going to need someone else on the team to step up in the absence of their franchise centerpiece heading into Game 2 against the Utah Jazz. That responsibility was always going to fall on the shoulders of one of — or both — Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, but it was a matter of if they could answer the call. On Monday night, Brunson certainly lived up to the tall task, as he poured in 41 points en route to Dallas’ 110-104 win over Utah to even the series at 1-1.
Brunson’s heater of a performance started early in the game, as he rattled off 15 points in the first quarter. He was knocking down 3s, getting to the rim and hitting a couple of in-between looks, and the Jazz just simply didn’t have an answer for him in the early going. But where his scoring really mattered was in the fourth quarter, where he put up 10 points and made clutch shots down the stretch to keep the slight lead for Dallas and ultimately win the game.
It was a night-and-day performance for the second-round pick, who shot just 37.5 percent from the field in Game 1. After that Game 1 loss, Brunson mentioned how he prides himself in being an efficient scorer, and wanted to focus on taking better shots for the next game. Well, he certainly delivered on that goal. The former Villanova product shot a supremely efficient 60 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc. While Dallas can’t bank on Brunson shooting that efficiently every night, having him turn in more performances like Game 2 is certainly a priority as long as Doncic is out.
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Brunson wasn’t just getting it done with scoring, he also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists on the night. His passing became especially crucial in the fourth quarter, as he kept finding Maxi Kleber in the corner for wide open 3s, which helped seal the win for the Mavericks. To top off what was already a sterling performance from the young guard, Brunson didn’t turn the ball over once, as he made smart passes and made sure not to force anything on offense.
Brunson’s performance was exactly the type of game the Mavericks needed with Doncic out, and the fact that it came in a win makes it even better. With the series now tied, Dallas has some life as Utah will now prepare to host the next two games of this series. Splitting the two home games also gives Dallas a little boost with two days between now and Game 3 on Thursday. That amount of time before the next game is also beneficial for Doncic as he prepares for a potential return. While there’s still not a definitive timeline on the Slovenian guard’s return, head coach Jason Kidd has said that Doncic continues to make improvements each day. He’s been seen at practice doing some light shooting on the court in the last two days, which is a positive sign in his recovery.
Brunson’s performance gave the Mavericks hope that they can hang with the Jazz in this series. Now we wait for Game 3 and see if Doncic will make a return.