This article is purely focussed on how the team's management with player injuries caused them to lose in the second round of the playoffs. No, it does not focus on how Quin made no adjustments in game 6 regarding the corner 3s and our monumental collapse, which is inexcusable in itself.
I have to acknowledge that this was written in hindsight, and as they say, hindsight is 20/20 so we can't put 100% of the blame on management as they don't have a crystal ball to predict the future. Still, I found some of their decisions quite appalling, which is why I've made this fanpost.
May 23rd. Game 1, Jazz vs Grizzlies. Donovan Mitchell comes out and says he is good to go before the game. We're excited and hyped to see that our star player will be available.
Wait what? He's not? Why???? Oh, the team doctors have decided that it was better for him to rest. We go on and lose the game by 3 points.
Now, this game might seem INSIGNIFICANT, and honestly, I totally understand why the team doctors would do that. The team has won all 3 of their games against the grizzlies, and in one of the games Mitchell didn't even play. So surely, it's a good idea to rest our biggest star if we can just handle our business. Right?
Unfortunately, (keeping in mind this is written retrospectively), this is PLAYOFFS BASKETBALL. Mitchell is probably around 85-90% healthy, so why not just play him and limit the minutes? His offence was dearly missed in the end, and the loss stung.
Now let us fast forward to June 2nd, game 5 vs the Grizzlies. Behind Donovan's impressive game, where he scored 26 points in the first half (gee, would have been nice to have him in game 1 hey), we beat the grizzlies. However, our lead guard, Mike Conley, goes down due to right hamstring soreness.
It is very possible that had Mitchell played in the first game, that the series ends in a sweep and Conley NEVER goes down. We get more time to rest as the Clips and Mavs battle out to 7 games, and our players become healthy again.
Of course, I'm speculating here, but this scenario is definitely quite possible.
However, Conley is injured in our reality. Due to this, Donovan has to carry a lot more of the offensive load in both games 1 and 2 as we're missing Conley. Now Conley would have really helped lightened the offensively load as he is not only a great shooter, but he also runs the pick and roll really well with Gobert, making Gobert a legitimate lob threat that the small clippers have to worry about. So really, by missing Conley, we're losing multiple offensive threats. Jazz of course win games 1 and 2 due to Donovan carrying us hard with his superstar level production, but then, with 20 seconds to go in game 2, disaster struck. Playoff P blindsides Mitchell, leaving him in agony. He's clearly hurt, but being a warrior and a young fella, he's able to walk it off.
Now at this point, you GOTTA hope that the Jazz pushes Conley to return earlier right? Even if it means he acts as a decoy like James Harden in Game 5 vs the Bucks so that Donovan will have a lighter load to carry. But nope, they allow Donovan to try and continue to carry the team on one bum ankle. So we lose game 3.
Despite the fact that Conley flew to LA with the team, he does not play game 4 either. I guess my question is, if you're not even going to play him why fly him? It would be more beneficial to the team and to Conley if he just stayed in SLC for rehabbing.
Ok, it is what it is I guess. We get a stroke of luck (for us, but terrible news for the NBA), as Kawhi Leonard goes down with a likely ACL injury and is out for the series (prayers up that it's just a sprain and not an ACL though :( ). The Jazz, again being COMPLACENT, refuses to play Conley. I assume it's because they think we're going to win the game with Kawhi not playing, but complacency is how teams lose. And lose we did.
So now here we are. Game 6 vs the Clippers. All of a sudden, Conley is available (I really wonder why hey), but of course, he plays terrible in HIS FIRST GAME BACK. Now I have no idea what the Jazz organisation was smoking, but obviously if you refuse to play a player for multiple games then rush him back in a must-win game he's likely be rusty. Was there no thinking behind that decision???
So here's my final rant: If the Jazz played Mitchell in game 1, this could have been all avoided and we might have been heading towards our first NBA finals in over 20 years. We didn't and Conley got injured. In the clippers series, management decided to save Conley for a must-win game and put all the burden on Mitchell and he got injured. Had they played Conley earlier, Mitchell might have played less minutes and not gotten injured. And even if he did get injured, I believe Conley would have helped lightened the load, plus, if we ever went to a must-win game in this alternate reality, Conley wouldn't be uber rusty and likely wouldn't play as terribly.
Well, it really is what it is. I still really enjoyed this season by the Jazz, but can't help but have a bitter feeling that we could have done a lot better. Of course, there are many other reasons to the Jazz losing the series besides this, but I suppose that can be covered in another article.
TLDR: The Jazz organisation screwed up a golden season by being too conservative with injury management.