After starting out the series 2-0 against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Jazz have dropped three games in a row for the first time this season. An absolute backbreaking loss at home last night has the Jazz down 2-3 in the series, facing elimination as they head back to LA to face the Kawhi-less Clippers.
There’s not a lot going right for the Jazz right now. Mike Conley admitted to having a setback with his hamstring yesterday, and his status remains questionable, even with the Jazz facing elimination. Donovan Mitchell, who reaggravated his ankle injury near the close of game two, looks like he is running out of steam, and the injury might be finally catching up to him. History is not on their side either. Historically, the winner of game fives in a series tied 2-2 goes on to win nearly 85% of the time in the NBA Playoffs. Right now, it’s just really tough to be a Jazz fan.
Trying to keep things simple, the Jazz need to win in Los Angeles tomorrow night. This is obvious. But given that it might seem overwhelming to the Jazz thinking about winning two games in a row, they need to just take it one game at a time. If they can somehow pull off a win on Friday night, it forces a game 7, and we all know that anything can happen in a game 7. Will Mike Conley be back for tomorrow night? At this point, I am kind of just assuming that they will be without him the rest of the series. I’ve gotten my hopes up before every game that Mike would be back, and it just hasn’t happened. It made more sense yesterday when the news of his “setback” came out. Mike told reporters yesterday that when he does come back, he’s not going to be 100% either way. So even if the Jazz do get Conley back, will he be effective? We saw what happened to James Harden the other night as he seemed to come back prematurely. The difference between the Nets and Jazz though, is Kevin Durant. Without Conley, the Jazz have looked to Donovan Mitchell to lead them, and he’s done the best that he possibly could considering he is literally playing on one leg at this point. Donovan opened up a bit to media postgame last night about his frustrations, and where he is at physically.
Donovan, on his injury: "It fucking sucks. It sucks when you see spots you can normally get to, and now you can't. Gotta figure it the fuck out or we're going home."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) June 17, 2021
Donovan, on playing in a limited fashion: "That's what I'm learning right now. For most of my life, I've been able to push by, jump by, explode and go over people. And now I'm learning to play on the floor. … The timing sucks but it is what it is."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) June 17, 2021
Watching Donovan play, it’s so obvious that he just doesn’t have the burst that he normally does. And for a guy like him, that plays with fire and speed and athleticism, it’s really taken a toll on him over the last few games. You would have to think that the Jazz’s best bet of success is to get Mike Conley back, get the ball in his hands, and hope that you get another big game from Bogdanovic, and better games from Rudy, Clarkson, O’Neale, etc. But what seems to be the biggest issue right now in this series is getting stops, which is something the Jazz just couldn’t do pretty much at any time in last night’s loss. Rudy mentioned last night that he felt like the Jazz weren’t playing with any urgency early on.. which is just crazy to think about.
Rudy Gobert: "We weren't playing with a sense of urgency at the beginning. … I wish maybe we would have missed some shots [early] so we would have realized we needed to play some defense. … Just no urgency on the defensive end."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) June 17, 2021
Will the Jazz have more urgency in game 6? If they don’t, they will be watching the rest of the playoffs from their couches at home. This game tomorrow night is the biggest game the Utah Jazz have had in the last decade. Considering the window for a championship opening up, the Jazz’s talent, and the other teams remaining in the playoffs, this might actually be the biggest game since the Finals runs in the 90s. This is a huge game. And if they win it, game 7 will be an even bigger game. All the talk of respect, championships, legacies, etc is on the line on Friday night. The Jazz just need to show up, play their best game, and come back home to close out game 7. Simple enough, right?