Bojan Bogdanovic put Utah ahead to stay just before halftime, Donovan Michell got aggressive in the second half and the only made shot by Royce O’Neale was a huge one late for the Jazz.
All that injured guard Luka Doncic could do for the Dallas Mavericks was watch from the bench, where at one point he was munching popcorn.
Mitchell scored 30 of his 32 points after the break, Bogdanovic finished with 26 and the Jazz opened the playoffs with a 99-93 victory Saturday over the Mavericks, who had cut an 11-point deficit to one before O’Neale’s 3-pointer.
“The fact he didn’t hesitate and shot that ball, that’s a mindset, and I think it’s a mindset that our team has right now,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
The fourth-seeded Mavs, starting the playoffs at home for the first time since their NBA title season 11 years ago, sorely missed their 23-year-old superstar even though Jalen Brunson had 24 points and Spencer Dinwiddie 22. Doncic strained his left calf six days earlier in the regular-season finale. Coach Jason Kidd has said only that he is day-to-day.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night in Dallas.
Bogdanovic had Utah’s only two 3-pointers before halftime, in a 13-2 run over the final 3 1/2 minutes that put the Jazz ahead to stay. Mitchell, who always seems to step up in the postseason, was 1-of-9 shooting before coming alive after the break.
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“I came out a little too passive (early), and in the same respect, Bojan was rolling,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t feel like I was out of control, Bojan had it going. The second half, I came out in attack mode.”
With Doncic in a black hoodie on the bench, the Mavericks got within 92-91 on a 3-pointer by Maxi Kleber with 2:12 left. After Mitchell missed, the Mavs had the chance to take their first lead in the second half, but Kleber missed badly on another long-range shot.
“Think about it: We lost by six, I missed six free throws. We’re right there. If anything, this should be encouraging for our fan base in my opinion,” Dinwiddie said. “Give them credit. They went out there and won the game. ... With them having their two best scorers both go for 30 basically and still hold them under 100, overall I think there’s a lot of room for optimism.”
O’Neale made the 3-pointer on the same possession he missed inside before later getting a pass from Mitchell and beating the shot clock from the right corner. Utah finished with a 20-7 edge in second-chance points.
“I had in my head I was going to shoot anyway,” said O’Neale, when asked about the shot clock running down.
Brunson, the starting point guard with Doncic out, was 9 of 24 with seven rebounds and five assists.
“We missed a lot of easy looks, a lot of great looks. We just missed them,” Brunson said. “We’re just playing basketball. There’s no telling who’s shooting what and where. Just kind of put ourselves in position to make plays for one another. Coach Kidd gives us that ability and that confidence.”