SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It’s understandable why the Jazz aren’t being considered as an NBA title favorite as they prepare for their first round series against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Jazz struggled down the stretch, failing to hold big leads on several occasions. Plus, the Jazz have not made it out of the second round of the playoffs since 2007. Even as the #1 seed last year, the Jazz lost in six games to the L.A. Clippers in the second round.
“We haven’t accomplished anything, so it’s OK,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert. “We’ve got to prove it, and we’ve got to earn it. We had a great regular season last year. Obviously we wanted to get further than the second round, and it didn’t happen. So I don’t want to blame people for overlooking us until we accomplish something.”
Even if most of the experts don’t believe in the Jazz, the team believes in itself. And they’re using their underdog role as motivation.
“I think we’re the best team in the league,” said reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson. “I honestly believe that. I think we have the opportunity to do something special. I’ve been saying that since the beginning of the season. If its the underdog role, whatever gets anyone of us up and going and focused, whatever it is, bring it to the table and let’s get it rocking.”
You know who gets it rocking in the playoffs? Donovan Mitchell. Two years ago in the bubble in Orlando, he had two 50-point games and one 44-point game against Denver. Then last year against Memphis and the Clippers, Mitchell averaged over 32 points per game. He seems to take his game to another level when the playoffs start, but that’s not how he thinks of it.
“I don’t like saying that it’s just time or anything,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think that’s a great way to approach the game. I think for me, just locking in and focusing in on the specific matchup, whatever it is. I’ve been fortunate enough to play my best basketball at playoff time, and it’s just what I’m supposed to do.”
Whether or not Luka Doncic, who has a strained calf, plays for the Mavs, the Jazz task remains the same. And the team feels re-energized after having a few days without games to prepare for the postseason.
“I think we’re super hyped,” Clarkson said. “We’re ready. We know we have to go to Dallas these first two games and take care of business, and then come back home and win some games here as well.”
Game 1 between the Jazz and Mavericks is set for Saturday at 11:00 a.m.