SALT LAKE CITY – Once again, the Utah Jazz suffered a postseason meltdown. But getting out of the NBA playoffs early hurt a lot more this time.
The seeded Jazz fell to the LA Clippers in six games after losing a 2-0 series lead. Injuries to All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, along with defensive deficiencies exposed by the Clippers’ small-ball lineups, defeated a Utah team after a dominant regular season.
For a team that gave up a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets a season earlier, this latest postseason setback left an extra sour taste.
“This hurts more than last year because we went back up and lost again,” Mitchell said. “This is going to eat me up. Even when I go to the supermarket, I’m going to be thinking about it.”
Mitchell took another step forward during the postseason as a rising superstar for the Jazz, even as he played in pain after re-injuring his right ankle early in the series against the Clippers.
The two-time NBA All-Star missed Utah’s last 16 regular-season games after spraining his ankle in mid-April. He eventually returned to action in Game 2 against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
Mitchell finished averaging 32.3 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds during the Playoffs. He had 39 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while hitting nine triples, in his last game against the Clippers, becoming the first NBA player to encrypt that stat line in a playoff game.
“He’s a warrior,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He is a unique player who has the competitiveness and the desire to play with those kinds of elements.”
The Jazz had a league-leading +9.3 net rating and held opponents to 107.2 points per game during the regular season. However, their strong defense struggled in the postseason when they faced smaller rosters peppered with versatile athletic players.
Against the Clippers, Utah gave up 125.0 points per game in four straight season-ending losses and allowed the Agnelini to shoot at least 56% from the field in two of four straight losses.
The Jazz gave up a 25-point lead in the third quarter in Game 6 after allowing the Clippers to score 81 points on 45 possessions.
Now Utah will spend an offseason examining its conscience and figuring out what the next step forward for the franchise should be.
“Obviously, we had higher expectations to lose in the second round, so it’s painful,” Rudy Gobert said. “You try to ask yourself the right questions and you try to think what we can do to make it stop happening.”