Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside (21) stands by as Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, center, celebrates after sinking a basket in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Monday, March, 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic sees a big difference between the fourth and fifth seeds in the Western Conference playoffs.
It’s all about the home court, and the Dallas star led his team Monday night to a crucial victory in that pursuit.
He had 35 points and a season-high 16 rebounds for the Mavericks, who held on for a 111-103 victory over the Utah Jazz in a matchup of possible first-round playoff opponents.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 21 for the Mavericks. Dallas won its fifth consecutive game and pulled within a half-game of the fourth-seeded Jazz in the West.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points and Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz, who led for just 13 seconds in the second game of back-to-back and finished 3-2 on a five-game road trip.
Dallas can even the series in the final regular-season meeting at home March 27. Utah won twice in Salt Lake City this season, and the home team has won six in a row in this matchup going back to last season.
With a loss, Dallas would have trailed Utah by 2 1/2 games with 17 games remaining, and Utah would have held the tiebreaker.
“Four, you have the home advantage. That’s a big thing,” said Doncic, who also had seven assists and three steals, including a critical one late. “We’ve never had it since I’ve been here, so I think we’re trying for the home advantage for sure.”
If there is a playoff meeting between these teams, all eyes will be on Doncic and Gobert after two run-ins Monday between the 23-year-old Slovenian and Utah’s 7-foot-1 center.
The first came at the end of the first half when Doncic missed a shot at the buzzer and turned to talk to a referee, believing he had been fouled. Gobert tossed the ball to Doncic, who immediately turned to go after Gobert.
Dinwiddie guided Doncic toward the tunnel to the locker room, but not soon enough to keep Doncic from getting his 13th technical, three shy of a one-game suspension, though the technical count resets for the playoffs.
Gobert, who got an early technical after elbowing Dwight Powell in the head as Powell was called for a foul, tripped Doncic in the third quarter after Doncic’s alley-oop pass to Powell. Doncic signaled as though he thought Gobert would get thrown out on review because of a second technical, but officials ruled the contact was incidental.
“It was a big game. Those games are going to get chippy,” Doncic said. “I thought it was (tripping), and then I saw it was nothing. We were all laughing at the bench.”
Gobert agreed with Doncic that it was “just emotions,” but also said there was too much chatter from the Dallas bench.
“I’ve got to keep my mind in the right place because my team needs me in the game,” Gobert said. “At the same time, when you’ve got guys on the bench that don’t play, just keep talking and saying some stuff and the officials can hear and don’t do anything. As a man, is it worth getting suspended? And we shouldn’t have to ask ourselves that question.”
A 20-point Dallas lead late in the third quarter was at seven in the final two minutes of the game when Doncic stole Donovan Mitchell’s pass and fed Finney-Smith for an alley-oop dunk.
Bogdanovic, a night removed from setting a franchise record with 11 made 3-pointers against Oklahoma City, missed one from deep. Doncic grabbed his final rebound and made two free throws for a 108-97 lead with 51 seconds remaining. Bogdanovic finished 4 of 8 from behind the arc.
“To me the story of this game is we’re down 20 on the road. You don’t see that as far as what we did to come back and get right there,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I don’t think we played as well as we can. We’ve had some good games. We’ve played some good stretches. But we haven’t hit a stride yet.”
Dinwiddie made his second consecutive start, this time because Jalen Brunson was out with a right foot contusion. Recently acquired from Washington in a trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Wizards, Dinwiddie’s first start for Dallas came Saturday, when he scored a season-high 36 points with Doncic out because of a left toe issue.
Finney-Smith was 4 of 10 from 3 in his fifth consecutive game of shooting at least 40% from beyond the arc. Dinwiddie was 5 of 9 from 3 and Doncic 5 of 11.
Jazz: Gobert played after being listed as questionable with a sore left calf. A strain in the same calf sidelined Gobert for nine consecutive games in January and February. … Jordan Clarkson scored 19 points off the bench. Mitchell had 17 points and nine assists on a tough shooting night (5 of 19).
Mavericks: Finney-Smith’s tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left in a 114-113 win over Sacramento on Saturday was Dallas’ first game-winning bucket in the final five seconds by someone other than Doncic since Harrison Barnes on Nov. 22, 2017. Barnes hit a 3 at the buzzer in a 95-94 win at Memphis. … Powell scored 13 points.
Jazz: Hosts Portland on Wednesday. Utah won each of the first two meetings with the Trail Blazers by double digits.
Mavericks: A four-game homestand ends Wednesday against New York, followed by five consecutive road games for the second time in the span of about a month.