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Jalen Brunson and Mavericks beat Jazz 126-118 to take the series lead 2-1

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Jalen Brunson lay flat and motionless, watching his Dallas teammates take a 17-point lead before halftime on the locker room monitor.

“I saw how strong the team was playing when I was laying there,” Brunson said. “It gave me some mojo to get back out there and do my thing.”

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Brunson scored 31 points while playing with a bruised back and the Mavericks — without an injured Luka Doncic — beat the Utah Jazz 126-118 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 first-round playoff lead.

“We’re all on the same page,” Brunson said. “We all click. We all talk and communicate.”

Dallas coach Jason Kidd isn’t happy with the road win and series advantage.

“I just told the guys we didn’t do anything,” Kidd said. “They won at home and now we have won here. We have to put this game behind us and figure out what we need to do better.”

Dallas Mavericks goalie Jalen Brunson (13) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz goalie Jordan Clarkson (00) defends in the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, the Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Salt Lake City.
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It’s hard to imagine the Mavericks playing much better without Doncic and hoping to bring him back for the next game.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 10 of his 20 fourth quarter points for Dallas, Maxi Kleber had 17 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 14 points, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:56 left for a 10-point lead.

Doncic missed all three games of the series with a strained calf, with signs pointing to his return for Game 4 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Donovan Mitchell scored 28 of his 32 second-half points for Utah. Bojan Bogdanovic added 24 and Mike Conley had 21. The Jazz had won 11 straight at home against Dallas.

Conley took the Jazz to 103-102, but Dinwiddie made two baskets and Brunson scored six points on three straight possessions to make it 113-104.

“His creation and shot making has been amazing all season, but the determination he shows to hit those big shots and the confidence he has is just fun to watch,” Kleber said.

Brunson appeared to hurt his back midway through the second quarter when Royce O’Neale hit him at full speed from behind. He moved cautiously, rubbed his lower back and got technical as he walked off the field complaining about a cheap shot.

Brunson would not elaborate on the hit after the game. “I said what I had to say” on the floor.

But he shrugged it off and played with Jazz on a variety of drives against several different defensemen. Brunson now has 96 points in three games in the series. He has recorded just one turnover in the last two games.

“He’s unique in his physical strength and his ability to keep his dribbling alive in the way he’s really using his body. He’s able to play with his feet on the ground, so if you’re trying to come in and help, he’s got the ability to find people and get the ball going,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.

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SHORT BENCH, BIG RESULTS

Although the Mavericks were shorthanded, the bench made a big difference.

“I trust every one of these guys and we just want to put them in a position to be successful,” Kidd said.

Kleber, Davis Bertans (15 points) and Josh Green (12 points) combined to shoot 11 for 17 from behind the 3-point line and scored 44 points.

“It’s just trusting each other. Every guy, if we look good, we’re happy and believe in each other,” Bertans said.

In total, the Dallas Reserves outscored the Utah bench 49-24.

TIPS

Mavericks: After going 8 for 11 from 3-point range in Game 2, Kleber made it three in a row in his first two minutes on the court. “I just let it fly,” Kleber said. … Tim Hardaway Jr. (foot surgery) is likely out for the playoffs unless Dallas makes a deep run. … Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban celebrated with the team in the locker room.

Jazz: Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn and boxer Floyd Mayweather sat courtside. … Clarkson made a shot from three quarters down the field but it came just past the first quarter horn. … Eric Paschall played just 10 minutes (center) but scored six points and Utah trailed Dallas by nine points during that span.

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