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Analysis: Brunson's virtuoso performance helps Dallas even Jazz series, sets the table for Doncic's return

A 41-point display of dominance from Jalen Brunson led the Mavs to an upset win over the Jazz; now Luka Watch reignites with gusto.
Credit: AP
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, center, reacts in the closing seconds of a win over the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, April 18, 2022, in Dallas. Doncic did not play in the game as he is recovering from a left calf strain. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS — Series on.

And somebody, please, get me a direct line to Jalen Brunson's bank account.

The Mavs point guard hit God mode in Game 2 -- 41 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 6-of-10 from three-point range, 15-of-25 from the field, two steals and not a single turnover in 42 minutes of play.  

The Mavs outscored the Jazz by 15 points when he was on the floor. And he is the. reason. that the Dallas Mavericks have evened up this series with the Utah Jazz.

And now Luka Watch gets really interesting.

"A lot," Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said, when asked postgame how much money Brunson had just made himself. "A lot. He's gonna make a lot of money. I don't know if he needs an agent, but I'm gonna put my name in the hat."

Being Brunson's agent sounds like a cushy gig right now, because the fourth-year guard out of Villanova is about to cash in to an absurd degree this summer. And all his agent will need to do is roll the tape from tonight's game as evidence.

But forget Brunson's bank account for now. Because the focus for Dallas is on a series that has just been turned on its ear.  

Tied 1-1 after the first two games in Dallas is about as good as the Mavs could have hoped for, sans Luka Doncic -- the other  guy that Dallas drafted in 2018.  

And now Doncic may be back for Game 3.

Doncic went through the Mavs shootaround today, according to Kidd, and continues to make progress in his recovery from a left calf strain suffered in the regular season finale. 

With an extra day off between Games 2 and 3 because of the travel day to Utah, Dallas now has until Thursday night at 8 p.m. CT to get Doncic ready to go.  

If this is a Grade 1 calf strain and Doncic is looking at the 7-10 day recovery timeframe that accompanies said grade, then he would be on the back end of that recovery window and should be in good shape to play.

The Mavs have never publicly specified whether Doncic's calf strain was Grade 1, 2 or 3.  

If it were a Grade 3, we'd never have seen him do the work he's done at practice in the last 48 hours, so that is almost assuredly off the table.  

If it's a Grade 2 strain, Doncic would likely be out for this entire series, and the Mavs season would be in significant jeopardy.

But if it's a Grade 1 strain... oooh boy. You may be about to see the Boy Wonder back on the floor by the time they get to Utah.

And in answering a question about the Mavs three point shooting in Game 2, Kidd may have tipped his hand slightly, about Doncic's injury status, when he finished his answer with "...as we get healthy here, hopefully that gives us the edge."

As we get healthy?  That's an interesting four word clause in what was a larger answer about a separate subject entirely. But it's hard not to hear that and think Kidd is licking his chops at the idea of getting Doncic back soon.

Allow me to say this, definitively and without equivocation: If Doncic's injury is remotely lingering and there is any possibility that he could re-aggravate the injury -- or heaven forbid, have a Kevin Durant-esque escalation to a more severe injury -- then Dallas shouldn't even consider putting him on the floor.  

The reality of the matter is that, as good as this Mavs team is, and as exciting as they are to watch, they are not a championship-caliber team.  

That type of contention is still a player -- maybe looking at you, Rudy Gobert -- away. So, risking Doncic in any way, shape or form, when winning a title isn't a realistic goal, is foolhardy.

But if he really is okay come Thursday night, and the medical staff believes his body is sound?  Go ahead and punch the Mavs ticket to the second round, because this Jazz team can't beat a Luka-led squad. 

Not in a best-of-5. And maybe not at all.

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