Donovan Mitchell was left out of the Utah Jazz roster for game one of their playoff first-round matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. As a result, first seed Utah were stunned by eighth seed Memphis 109-112 in front of their fans, capping off a poor start to their Western Conference playoff series.
However, Mitchell’s absence was not the main reason they lost that game. There were other factors at play, and the game could have ended differently on another day.
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
Don’t blame it all on Spida’
It would be easy (and some might say lazy) to attribute Sunday’s upset to Donovan Mitchell not being on the court. After all, he is their best player.
However, Mitchell has been injured for a month and missed the last 16 games of the regular season. Utah’s record in that period was 10-6.
This proves that they are used to playing without him, and his unavailability on Sunday was not to blame for the loss.
The real reason Utah lost to Memphis
Mitchell not playing is just one of multiple reasons Memphis picked up the W in Salt Lake City. Another one is coach Quinn Snyder’s tactics.
Utah’s over-reliance on three-point shots was evident throughout the regular season, and we all knew it could eventually backfire.
They are usually lethal from outside, making close to 17 shots from beyond the arc per game on average. But the shots just weren’t falling on Sunday, and for some reason, Quinn Snyder opted not to try any other approach.
Utah shot 47 (yes, you read that correctly, just 3 short of 50) times from deep in that game and made just 12 of those shots.
Furthermore, Utah had 16 turnovers, almost double the Grizzlies’ total of nine.
25% shooting + 16 turnovers = L most of the time by NBA standards.
Bad day at the office
In addition to the above points, Utah Jazz was just unlucky. Everything that could have gone wrong did.
This is perhaps a result of the Utah Jazz’s famous game one curse. Utah has lost their last five opening games in playoffs series and this one made it six in a row.
The Utah Jazz have lost 6 straight playoff game 1s, the longest streak in franchise history. They became the 2nd franchise with multiple Game 1 losses as a 1 seed against an 8 seed pic.twitter.com/D2dLDN7xT2
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2021
It is also probably unfair to Memphis to rule their impressive performance as bad luck on the part of their opponents. Especially since they just recently dispatched Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, but it is what it is.
With every shot clanging off the rim and missing a superstar in Mitchell, Rudy Gobert got fouled out in the fourth quarter with just over four minutes left to play.
Memphis had no choice but to win, especially with how great Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant were playing.
Bojan Bogdanovic missed a game tying three in the final seconds.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) May 24, 2021
As much as it was a bad night for Utah, it offers some positives to hold on to for the upcoming games.
They shot poorly, didn’t have 26 PPG Donovan Mitchell, and lost Defensive Player of The Year nominee Rudy Gobert in the fourth quarter, but still only lost by 3 points.
It is a testament to the quality of their role players. It’s also an accurate representation of why Memphis were underdogs in the first place.
Utah Jazz can beat this Grizzlies team when they are in full flow, even without Donovan Mitchell. However, Donovan Mitchell will be back for game two on Wednesday, meaning this could be over quickly.