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Utah shot to win it falls short; Doncic, Brunson lift Mavericks past Jazz into second round

The Utah Jazz had their chances.

In Game 6. In this series. In the Donovan Mitchell/Rudy Gobert era. The Jazz had their chances.

The game, the series and maybe the era are over after Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks hung on to beat the Jazz 98-96 in Game 6 Thursday, taking the series 4-2 and advancing to the second round for the first time in the Doncic era (it was the first Dallas playoff series win since the 2011 title season).

Dallas advances to take on Phoenix — who looked vulnerable knocking off the Pelicans — in a series that starts Monday in the Valley of the Sun.

Utah played its best defensive game of the series — Royce O’Neal in particular stepped up, something the Jazz needed more of earlier in the playoffs — and got 23 points and nine assists from Donovan Mitchell.

In the end, the Jazz had two chances to take the lead in the final 10 seconds. On the first, with the Jazz down one, Mike Conley drove across the lane but was called for traveling when he stopped up and appeared to drag his feet with five seconds left (that was not a call that can be reviewed). Utah quickly fouled Jalen Brunson on the inbound, he hit one of two free throws, leaving the Jazz down two with 4.3 seconds and a chance. Quin Snyder drew up a brilliant play that sprung Bojan Bogdanovic — Utah’s hottest hand in this series — for an open look 3-pointer, but it fell short.

This was a series where the Mavericks’ Mr. Everything Doncic was out the first three games due to a strained calf, but Utah went 1-2 in those three games, not taking advantage of the situation.

Part of that was the Mavericks had role players step up all series long, and Jason Kidd found small-ball lineups that worked against Utah. Brunson had 24 points in the game on 9-of-17 shooting and was critical as a secondary shot creator all series, one Utah’s perimeter defenders could not contain. Dorian Finney-Smith was 4-of-9 from 3 for 18 points in the game, filling a floor-spacing role that Maxi Kleber had for much of the series. Spencer Dinwiddie had 19 points off the bench in this game. The Mavericks also continued to defend well against the Jazz, as they have much of the season.

Utah heads into an offseason where the expectation around the league is that wholesale changes are coming, which will have to involve trades because the Jazz have no draft picks and no cap space. Changes could include coach Quin Snyder being shown the door, but the bigger issue remains the roster — Utah gave the Mitchell/Gobert era a chance, but it simply has not clicked in the playoffs. Other teams expect the Jazz will shop Rudy Gobert and some of their role players (looking to re-tool around Donovan Mitchell). However, Utah is not in a strong position to bargain, and a rebuild may be easier said than done.

The Mavericks get rest up before taking on a 64-win season Suns team, but one Dallas has the players to challenge.

Luka Doncic may have just won his first playoff series, but he doesn’t want to quit there.