The Dallas Mavericks will likely be without Luka Doncic for at least one game of their first round series against the Utah Jazz. Although losing your superstar player is never a good thing, there is reason for Game 1 optimism when looking closely at the lineup combinations used in all of the Mavs’ games against the Jazz since they traded Kristaps Porzingis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.
Luka Doncic injured his calf in the regular season finale.
Spencer Dinwiddie will have added responsibility with Luka Doncic out.
While the regular season is much different than the playoffs, there are still some trends that can translate up to postseason play. The Mavericks and Jazz have played each other three times since the trade deadline, so both teams are pretty familiar with each other by now.
The first and most-promising stat when looking at the lineup data in those three games is that the Mavs’ 10 most efficient two-man pairings came without Luka Doncic being involved, and seven of the 10 included either Dinwiddie or Jalen Brunson.
Beyond strong guard play from both Dinwiddie and Brunson — who needs a massive bounce-back performance from his playoff series last year against the Clippers — Bertans’ shooting could be key for the Mavs to get quick offense and force the Utah defense that suffocates drives to expand their defense out to the 3-point line.
The Mavs’ two best two-man lineups came with Bertans on the floor, and both had a largely positive net rating. In 32 minutes shared between Bertans and Maxi Kleber, the Mavs posted a 107.7 offensive rating and a 71.2 defensive rating against the Jazz (+36.5 net rating). When Bertans and Dinwiddie shared the floor vs. Utah for 37 minutes, the Mavs had an offensive rating of 117.6 and a defensive rating of 86.3 (+31.3 net rating).
Scroll to Continue
The Utah Jazz have lots to prove in the playoffs following a turbulent regular season.
Reggie Bullock needs a stronger playoffs than he had last year with New York.
Jalen Brunson is averaging 17 points per game in April.
While those defensive numbers are unsustainable for long stretches, finding the right times to bring in and take out Bertans will be a key thing to watch for in this series.
Game 1 will be telling on how accurate these on-off numbers can be, and also how accurate the mysterious Doncic numbers are that show a minimal difference with him on the floor vs. being off the floor.
There is one player that surprisingly did not show up on any of the positive lineups, and that is newly extended Dorian Finney-Smith, who just set an NBA record for improvement in a five-year span. It cannot be understated how important the 3-and-D wing will be for Dallas in this series, though.
If Finney-Smith can register positive advanced-efficiency metrics, the Mavericks will be in good position to take control of this series at home ahead of Doncic’s pending return from injury.