“It hurts” | Utah’s season ends in heartbreaking fashion

With four seconds left, Bojan Bogdanovic grabbed the ball on the left wing, rigged, and watched Spencer Dinwiddie pass by. After a dribble, he reset his feet and let it fly.

For the Utah Jazz, this was the ideal scenario. Arguably your best three-point shooter and one of your best players who has a chance of winning it with a wide open look.

But as many know, the NBA is a do-or-miss league, and unfortunately for Bogdanovic and the Jazz, it was a failure they will remember.

Despite an impressive comeback to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Utah’s season ended abruptly after falling 98-96 to Dallas on Thursday night. With that loss, the fifth-seeded Jazz lost 4-2 to the fourth-seeded Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

“I’m incredibly proud of this team and how we competed tonight,” said head coach Quin Snyder. “Obviously the result speaks for itself, but it was a pleasure to coach this group. I’m proud of the way we fought and competed. … We put ourselves in a position to win the match.

While that’s not how Donovan Mitchell saw his end to the season, Utah’s three-time star player was phenomenal in the final game of the year.

He was the leader the Jazz needed, getting off to a great start and keeping his teammates engaged throughout the game by picking them up when they needed them most. His all-around skills were on full display as he finished with a near triple-double of 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Whenever Dallas looked ready to pull out, it was Mitchell who came up with a big play. Whether it was an aggressive drive to the rim, a shot from beyond the arc, or a passes for a bucket, he was the engine that kept the Jazz in the game.

“It hurts, we didn’t reach our goal. I’m in pain right now. … I’m speechless,” Mitchell said. “There have been times this season when the ball has been thrown where we have not shown that we want to be a team with championship aspirations.

For Bogdanovic, he finished with 19 points and four rebounds while playing some seriously impressive defense on Dallas duo Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson. Despite expending so much energy defensively, he was still effective on the field shooting 9 of 15 from the floor and 3 of 6 from three-point territory.

He had a really impressive streak midway through the third quarter that kept the Jazz ahead as the Mavericks started to find a rhythm. Doncic caught fire, drilling for three straight, but Bogdanovic responded to both with his own three – coming on passes from Mitchell.

Although it was the final blow that will stay with him, the Jazz would never have had the chance to win it in the end without Bogdanovic. He hit a big three-pointer minutes before it tied the game at 94.

“Unfortunately I missed it, but it was a great look,” he said. “I was wide open. … It’s a shot I’ve landed before.”

“Bojan is as eye-catching a player as you’ll see. … You’ve seen him hit big shot after big shot,” Snyder said. “There’s no better guy to take that shot, everyone in the locker room would like him to have that shot in that moment. … No one feels that more than him.”

It was a good defensive start for the Jazz, keeping the crowd heavily involved and making life difficult for the Mavericks. Bogdanovic and Mike Conley started the scoring, but Dallas fought back, tying the game at 15 late in the quarter. However, Utah finished on a flurry as Jordan Clarkson and Conley drilled three runs for the Jazz to take a 21-15 lead after one.

The second quarter saw both offenses settle and establish a rhythm, with the Mavericks taking a 36-35 lead after a bucket from Brunson. But Mitchell immediately responded with a layup, sparking an 18-5 run to close the half, punctuated by a bucket from Bogdanovic at the buzzer.

Utah led 53-41 at the break.

Knowing Dallas would fire after halftime, Utah weathered the storm and still held a 12-point lead with just over nine minutes left. But then the floodgates opened for Dallas, starting a 16-5 run to get back in the game. After Bogdanovic hit those big shots matching Doncic, the Mavericks finished the quarter in a flurry to lead 77-72 after three.

The fourth quarter was filled with drama – but the Jazz showed what they were capable of to fight back and have a chance to win in the end.

After Dallas led 88-80 with just over six players to play, Utah started to put things into place. Mitchell started things off with a bucket, then Clarkson followed up his own missed three-pointer with a return, sparking an 8-0 run to tie the game with four minutes left.

The Mavericks appeared to dagger the Jazz with three straight runs – but Utah stayed calm as Mitchell went 1 for 2 from the charity strip and Bogdanovic hit a three to tie the game at 94. After a Brunson three points made it a four-point game, Rudy Gobert made a lay-up and then a critical defensive stop on Doncic to give the Jazz a chance to win it in the end.

“I have incredible respect for our guys in the way we played,” Snyder said. “I thought we were fearless and aggressive. … No shame in the way we played. We got beaten, and that’s a shame. … I thought we played well enough to win that game.”

Clarkson finished with 15 points and six rebounds, while Gobert added a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Conley added 11 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

About Ryan Headley

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