SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The off-season has come way too soon for the Jazz, who are still dealing with the heartbreak of blowing a 25-point lead in Game 6 Friday night to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I’m still in shock,” said Donovan Mitchell. “Don’t want to go home, still not mentally ready for this to be over. Worked so damn hard for us to be here, for it to happen like this, for all of us it’s devastating.”
“Obviously it’s painful,” added Rudy Gobert, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “We had a great year, but we felt like we had all the weapons to take a shot at the title.”
“We had such high hopes going forward,” said Mike Conley. “In a year that is wide open, it’s frustrating that we didn’t get that opportunity.”
“This one for me, in my seven years, probably hurts the most,” added Joe Ingles. “I think we played really well in some of the games and some of the quarters for this series. We obviously played bad or not up to our standards.”
Especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Jazz fell victim to small ball once again, as the Clippers 3-point shooting burned the Jazz for 81 second half points. Los Angeles spread the Jazz defense out, and made 14 of 19 from beyond the arc in the second half.
“Whether it be playing zones, changing rotations, changing matchups,” said head coach Quin Snyder. “In the end, that’s something that we’ll study again because the reality is that we weren’t able to get it done.”
“A lot of frustration,” Gobert said about the defensive performance in Game 6. “It takes a team effort and it takes five guys to defend to play for a championship.”
A healthy Mike Conley would have made a difference in this series. Conley made his first appearance in Game 6 against the Clippers, but scored just five points on 1 of 8 shooting. He said yesterday was the first day he could run.
“For me to be out there, I didn’t know if it would be the last game or not,” said Conley, who added that he was at about 50 percent. “So I kind of had to try to move the best I can. Obviously I could not move as good.”
“For him to come back and take a shot at playing last night,” Snyder said. like Donovan, obviously not at 100 percent. Playing through that discomfort and pain, his competitiveness and commitment to the team is also unique.”
But the Jazz are not using injuries as an excuse. Mitchell gutted through an ankle injury to turn in an incredible performance with 39 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.
“I’m not going to sit here and say oh I was hurt, that’s not me,” Mitchell said. “Just trying to find any means necessary, that was the mindset.”
So with the off-season now upon them sooner then expected, the Jazz biggest decision is to whether to bring back Conley, who will be an unrestricted free agent. At 33, Conley certainly showed his worth to the team, but he also missed significant time with a hamstring injury.
“You know, free agency is free agency,” Conley said. “As you know, this is the business we live in. It’s something that I have to sit back and consider with my family. It’s been a wonderful two years. Definitely an up and down two years, but wonderful regardless of how it ended.”
“I’m limited in what I can say,” said Jazz Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey. “But who he is, what he stands for, the speed, skill, intelligence, it’s an honor to have him as part of the program. But he’s got to go vet his market.”
The Jazz players certainly would like to have their All-Star point guard back.
“I think if we would have had him healthy during the series it would be a different series,” Gobert said. “So I would love to have him back.”
“I’ll do everything in my power,” said Ingles. “Whether I have to FaceTime him or fly to his mansion in Ohio. I hope he comes back, our kids are in the same class as well, so my daughter would be upset if Myles isn’t in that class.”
As spectacular of a regular season as it was, the number one seed in the West, the best overall record in the NBA, ultimately this Jazz team will be judged by its playoff performance, which was disappointing.
“It’s difficult to see this season end on the note that it did and the way that it did,” Snyder said. “I feel lucky and blessed to have an opportunity a group of men of the level of character and commitment that they had to our group.”
“Cherish these moments as teammates, because you don’t get to experience this every year,” added Conley. “We may never be together as a unit ever again.”