Mike Conley: 'It Was Tough on' Jazz, 'Expecting' Donovan Mitchell to Return

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 24, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MAY 23: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz warms up before Game One of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 23, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz suffered a Game 1 loss in their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies after star guard Donovan Mitchell was ruled out late with an ankle injury.

"It was definitely a game-changer for us, when a guy of his caliber is not able to play," point guard Mike Conley said, per Tony Jones of The Athletic. "It was tough on our team, expecting a guy like that back. We’ve played this season with guys in and out of the lineup all year. So at the end of the day, the loss is no excuse."

Mitchell missed the final 16 games of the regular season with the ankle injury but was projected to return for the playoffs after he "looked good in practice" all week, per Jones. However, the medical team decided to hold him out after the team's shootaround.

It resulted in a 112-109 Memphis win Sunday.

Playing without Mitchell is a setback for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The guard earned his second All-Star selection this season with averages of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game, even improving his efficiency with a .520 effective field goal percentage.

No one else on the roster averaged more than 20 points per game, creating a hole offensively when Mitchell is unavailable.

Bojan Bogdonavic picked up some of the slack with 29 points in Game 1, but it wasn't enough to pull out the win. The squad finished just 12-of-47 from three-point range, a disappointing showing for a squad that led the NBA in made threes this season.

The Jazz also had to deal with the mental aspect of playing without Mitchell after the late change in strategy.

"It was a big surprise. But I try to stay out of all this—it's just gonna give me a headache," center Rudy Gobert said after the game, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. "Hopefully, he's good for next game. That's all I'm worried about."

Mitchell held back discussing the issue on Twitter Sunday:

Donovan Mitchell @spidadmitchell

Sorry y’all... I wish I could say more.... I’ll be out there soon !❤️🙏🏾

Utah will hope the guard can return to the court when they host the Grizzlies in Game 2 Wednesday.