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Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts after missing his last attempt at the end of the game during NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 20, 2019. The Jazz lost 104-101. (Jeff Allred, Deseret News)
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Jensen: Playoff Failure Could Make Jazz Better In Future

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts after missing his last attempt at the end of the game during NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 20, 2019. The Jazz lost 104-101. (Jeff Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – I’m sorry, Jazz fans. I know it hurts.

You dreamed of your favorite team proving doubters wrong again and pulling off a playoff upset.

It drives you nuts watching James Harden get away with flopping and traveling.

You can’t stand it when Chris Paul whines to the refs after every whistle.

You wanted to see the Jazz beat them so bad, but it’s not going to happen.

That reality set in as Donovan Mitchell’s three point attempt with 8 seconds left in Game 3 bounced off the rim.

The reality is no team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series

The reality is the Rockets are the better team.

While failure isn’t fun here is the truth; the Utah Jazz stand to gain a lot from this experience against the Rockets that can prove valuable moving forward and accelerate their process of becoming an NBA title contenders.

Sure, if the Jazz drew the Blazers, Thunder, Spurs or Nuggets in the first round they would have had a much better chance of earning another playoff series win. However, this matchup is giving the Jazz a true measure of where they stand among the NBA’s elite. I argue it was better to face a legitimate NBA championship contender, a team that features the reigning league MVP in James Harden, and get a more accurate assessment of where they stand.

They learned they still have a long way to go.

The Jazz’s weaknesses have been exposed in this series. This team needs more firepower. The Jazz need another playmaker. They need more shooting. Donovan Mitchell needs more help. As good as he is and has been in just two years in the NBA, asking him to carry this much of the load offensively at his age is too much. Rudy Gobert needs more help too. He’s the defensive player of the year for a reason but we’ve seen against a contender like the Rockets that Rudy can’t be everywhere and cover up every defensive mistake.

It has now become more clear to Dennis Lindsey and the Utah Jazz front office what needs to be done to improve this roster moving forward. What they learned can accelerate the process in a way that a playoff series win over a lesser opponent could not.

This series will also make Donovan Mitchell a better player in the future.

Last year Donovan didn’t play like a rookie in his playoff debut. He averaged 24 points in 11 playoff games including 38 points in a closeout Game 6 against the Thunder. This year things were different.  It’s not easy being a marked man. His points and shooting percentage took a dip against the Rockets. Even scoring 34 points in Game 3 didn’t come easy. After starting out 5-7 from the field he shot 4-20 the rest of the game. There was one stretch in Game 3 where he missed 11 straight shots.

No one is taking the loss harder than Donovan and missing a wide open look with 8 seconds left that would have tied the game will haunt him for a while. It will drive him to become better. All the greats have gone through the same experience. Remember Kobe’s airballs against the Jazz in the playoffs when he was a young player? The miss will make Donovan better. He will learn from it. He will grow from it.

Kyle Korver believes that. He believes it so strongly he asked the media after they were done asking him questions if he could share this about Donovan:

“I have never been around a young player like Donovan Mitchell. I have never seen someone so young take ownership of a team, take ownership of his play, do it with charisma, do it with class. Never seen that in my 16 years in the NBA. He missed a tough shot tonight, but it’s just going to be part of his story. If you’ve played any meaningful basketball in the NBA, you have a shot like that. If you don’t, that means you haven’t played in meaningful games, or you haven’t been trusted by your teammates or coaches to take that shot. I don’t care who it is in history, everyone has a shot they want back. This is going to be part of the story at the end of the day. Because of who he is, he’s going to put too much on that shot, but we missed free-throws, we missed dunks, we missed layups, we missed threes. It was not about that shot. It was not about that shot. We had so many more chances to win that game. But I’m super proud of him. He came out and like, he heard that he hadn’t played as well as he wanted to in the first couple of games, and he put the whole thing on his back. For a young guy, 21 years old or whatever he is, that’s really special. He is on a great path in the NBA. At the end of the day, this is just going to be part of his story, part of his journey. He’s just going to keep building on it,” said Korver.

Five to 10 years from now we may remember this quote from Kyle far more than Donovan’s miss late in Game 3. We will understand what Kyle sees in Donovan and appreciate the process he will go through to become great.

Dennis Lindsey has said it many times that you can’t skip steps. While the result is disappointing this playoff series against the Rockets can be another step in that process as the Jazz try to take that next step and become an NBA title contender.

Short term pain for long term gain.