The Jazz can thank the Nets for saving them from being the biggest bust of the NBA playoffs.
Utah came into its first-round series against the Mavericks as the heavy favorites with Luka Doncic hurting his ankle and missing the first three games. The Jazz still find themselves in a 3-2 hole after getting destroyed 102-77 on Monday night in Dallas.
A hobbled Doncic has scored 63 points in the two games since his return, thanks to his other-worldly talent and a shoddy Jazz defense. But the bigger issue for Utah was not capitalizing on his absence from him, losing two of three to Dallas before his return from him.
And now the Jazz might be without their own superstar, as Donovan Mitchell suffered a hamstring injury while playing into the fourth quarter of Monday’s blowout loss. Mitchell is scheduled for an MRI exam on Tuesday.
“They’ve scrambled extremely hard,” said Mitchell, who had nine points and missed all seven 3-pointers he attempted Monday. “It’s a lot to continuously run teams off the line, and they’ve done a good job of it. They’ve made us uncomfortable.”
The game included Hassan Whiteside getting called for a double technical in the fourth quarter.
Doncic had already matched Utah’s entire output in the third quarter with 19 points when he returned midway through the fourth. Whiteside challenged an attempted dunk and flung Doncic to the court after they got tangled up.
Whiteside was assessed with two technical fouls after shoving Dorian Finney-Smith and going nose-to-nose with Reggie Bullock as coaches from both sides frantically tried to keep players separated. Finney-Smith and Bullock also got technicals, and Bullock was ejected because it was his second of the game.
“It was nothing,” Doncic said. “It’s playoffs, man. There’s going to be always attention, but it was nothing. I tried to dunk it. Wasn’t successful. These things happen in the playoffs.”
The Jazz ended the season in a bit of disarray when they had a five-game losing streak and rumors of dissent between Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were stirring again. The situation reached a point where coach Quin Snyder went on a rambling 20-minute defense of his two star players near the end of the season, seemingly responding to rumors on Twitter.
“I think everyone felt like — we all felt like — we need to talk,” Gobert said after a player’s only meeting on April 6. “We know, obviously, there’s always going to be teams and people in the media trying to divide us . We know and we’ve seen it in the past.”
They have one last chance this season to prove they are above the conjecture, needing back-to-back wins to survive the first round. Otherwise, the questions start anew about whether Mitchell and Gobert can co-exist and are capable of winning a championship together.