NBA playoffs

Jalen Brunson erupts for 41 as Doncic-less Mavericks pull level with Jazz

Jalen Brunson erupts for 41 as Doncic-less Mavericks pull level with Jazz

STEPPED UP. Breakout Dallas guard Jalen Brunson fills in for Luka Doncic in the Mavericks' much-needed series equalizer over Utah

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports-Reuters

Dallas Mavericks breakout guard Jalen Brunson explodes for a career playoff game over the Utah Jazz as Luka Doncic remains sidelined with a strained left calf

Jalen Brunson exploded for a playoff career-high 41 points, Maxi Kleber added 25 and the host Dallas Mavericks were on fire from outside to overcome superstar Luka Doncic’s absence in a 110-104 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday, April 18 (Tuesday, April 19, Manila time).

The teams’ first-round Western Conference playoff series is tied at one win apiece heading to the next two games in Salt Lake City starting on Thursday, April 21 (Friday, April 22).

Kleber scored all but one of his points from beyond the arc, shooting 8-of-11 from 3-point range, and Brunson made six treys. Dallas hit 22-of-47 attempts (46.8%) from long distance, while Utah connected on 11-of-29 (37.9%) from outside.

Dallas’ Spencer Dinwiddie contributed 17 points and 6 assists, while Reggie Bullock put up 11 points.

Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points, Bojan Bogdanovic had 25, and Jordan Clarkson added 21 for the Jazz, who were unable to maintain the lead they held for most of the second half when it counted most.

Doncic has missed the series’ first two games due to a strained left calf.

Utah led by 10 in the third quarter and was up by six heading to the fourth. Mitchell followed his own missed 3-point attempt and converted a three-point play to give the Jazz a 93-86 lead with 8:07 left in the game. It was all Dallas after that.

Bullock kicked off a game-changing, 10-0 run with a three-pointer, and then Brunson trimmed Utah’s lead to 93-91 with a nice floater. Dorian Finney-Smith drained a triple to put the Mavs up by one, and a Brunson drive capped the surge.

The Jazz momentarily regained the lead, but Kleber helped the Mavericks quickly regain momentum with back-to-back three-pointers as Utah struggled with its perimeter defense.

Bogdanovic made a couple of clutch turnaround shots, but Finney-Smith hit another trey, Brunson made three free throws, and the Jazz only managed two points in the final two and a half minutes.

The Jazz took a 55-48 lead into halftime after finishing the second quarter on a 7-0 run, with Mitchell draining a 3-pointer and Gobert sinking four free throws. Mitchell scored 12 points in the second period. –