The Utah Jazz had the best record in the league, the #1 spot in the Western Conference, 3 all-stars, 2 6MOY candidates, 1 COY candidate and 1 DPOY. They’re now down 0-1 in the first round of the playoffs after an embarrassing loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, 112-109.
Before the game even started the Jazz found themselves at a disadvantage. After not being put on the Jazz’s injury report, and telling media he was good to go, Donovan Mitchell was a late scratch hours before the game started.
Utah Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell isn’t expected to play vs. Memphis in Game 1 tonight, sources tell ESPN. Mitchell has been working toward his return from a sprained right ankle.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 23, 2021
It’s likely this had some sort of affect on the team, but you would think they would be used to playing without Mitchell at this point after he’d missed so much time to end the season.
Whatever was the reason, Utah looked terrible to start the game. Bojan Bogdanovic couldn’t stop turning the ball over and was kept out of the game for a good part of the first half being replaced by Miye Oni. At halftime Bogdanovic had 0 points. He also had a flagrant foul that gifted Memphis two points and was passing up open shots. He turned it around in the second half but this bad of a performance for an entire half is difficult to overcome for a team missing its best offensive player.
Jordan Clarkson’s line tonight was the worst case scenario for Utah. For the game Clarkson was 5/16 from the field, 0/8 from three and had 4 terrible turnovers. What was puzzling was him playing 30 minutes tonight. Quin Snyder made multiple puzzling moves tonight. This was definitely one of them. Clarkson killed the offensive flow tonight and on a night where Joe Ingles was shooting 3/7 from three, he sat in the corner for way too many possessions without seeing the ball. It feels like Snyder is waiting for Clarkson to turn it on in these games sometimes but it just never turned on for Clarkson tonight and it was a big reason the Jazz could never get over the hump.
Probably the biggest mistake in this game was when Quin Snyder decided to sit both Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley with 4 fouls. That was the moment that really galvanized the Grizzlies. Let’s be clear, Derrick Favors was not the reason the Jazz lost tonight. In fact, he was one of the reasons the Jazz weren’t completely blown out. But when Snyder sat Gobert and Conley with 4 fouls, and had them sit for an extended period, the Grizzlies went on a run that Utah never overcame. What’s even more frustrating is that when Gobert eventually came back in he still fouled out. So by sitting Gobert for foul trouble, the Jazz gave up the run and you didn’t prevent him from fouling out of the game. So not only did you not prevent the run, you didn’t gain any advantage with keeping fouls in check at the end. Lose, lose. Oh and the Jazz lost the game so it’s a lose, lose, lose.
Here’s the thing, this isn’t the middle of the regular season. You can’t be doing the same things all year you did to preserve players for the playoffs. Without Mitchell the Jazz played Rudy Gobert 24 minutes. 24 minutes! This isn’t all on Snyder, obviously. Gobert has to be smarter and understand that Utah needs him a minimum 36-40 if they want to win the game. You have to be more locked in than that. That being said, Snyder chose to keep Gobert off the floor in this one cause of perceived foul trouble. Snyder chose to keep Conley off the floor and put the ball in Clarkson’s hands more because of it. In a game you lost by 3 points, those decisions loom very large.
Now, having said all that, the Jazz lost this game by 3 points. They could not have played a worse game and still might have won had Mike Conley hit one of those open threes at the end of the game. That’s a good sign for this series, but Utah really needs Donovan Mitchel back. After the game, Rudy Gobert shared how he found out about Mitchell’s late scratch.
Rudy Gobert, on the Donovan Mitchell situation: "It was a big surprise. But I try to stay out of all this — it's just gonna give me a headache. … When you wake up from a nap and find out your star player isn't going to play, it throws you off a little bit."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) May 24, 2021
It’s really unclear what is going on with this situation, but the Jazz need to figure this out quickly. Right now, everything is a mess and the Jazz have a lot of kinks in the hose to straiten out for Wednesday.