LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz were inches away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.
But when Mike Conley’s potential game-winning shot rimmed out at the buzzer, the season was over.
To be up in the series against Denver 3 games to 1, then to fall behind by 19 points in Game 7, only to rally all the way back to take the lead, and then to lose on a shot that was in and out, the emotional roller coaster was almost overwhelming.
“This game tonight was one of the toughest losses that I’ve ever been involved with,” said head coach Quin Snyder.
“It’s devastating,” added forward Joe Ingles.
“It hurts more than any loss I’ve had in my career,” said Conley. “Just because there is so much you sacrifice, so much you give up to here. And then how much these guys fought, and how much guys played for each other, it’s tough to walk off that court.”
“I’d go to war with anyone of these guys in the locker room, any one of these coaches,” said Donovan Mitchell. “We could have easily chalked it up in the first half and said, well…but we have grit and fight.”
The good news is this team should be back in tact. Mitchell, who had an incredible series averaging 36 points per game, will reportedly sign a 5-year $170-million max deal with the Jazz this off-season, according to Yahoo Sports. And with Bojan Bogdanovic healthy again, the Jazz should be primed to make a serious playoff run in 2021.
“We went from being an unsalvageable team about three months ago to this,” said Mitchell, who still has one more year left on his rookie contract. “I don’t think anybody outside of us expected that. I feel like I took a step in the right direction. This is me scratching the surface, and that’s really what is fueling me because this ain’t the end. This is just the beginning.”
From being the first team to have a player test positive to the COVID-19 virus in Gobert, to losing its second leading scorer for the season in Bogdanovic, to an ongoing feud between the team’s two biggest stars in Mitchell and Gobert, the Jazz have been survivors this season.
“We want more,” said Gobert, who had 19 points and 18 rebounds in Game 7. “I’m proud of the way we handled everything that happened with our team. I don’t think a lot of teams would be able to go through that. I’m talking about especially Donovan and myself. To be able to come back and play the way we played, I think it’s very encouraging for the future.”
“Just to see the unselfishness, a team that really came together and grew,” added Snyder. “I wish would have had a chance to keep playing. I think that’s the thing that really hurts the most right now.”