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Donovan Mitchell high fives Nigel Williams-Goss (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Donovan Mitchell Finds Rhythm Versus Spurs

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs faced off in each teams’ final seeding games in Orlando. Despite playing mostly the team’s younger players in the Jazz 118-113 victory, Jazz coach Quin Snyder used the first quarter to give Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, and Royce O’Neale a chance to find their rhythm before beginning the postseason.

The Jazz built a 41-24 lead after one quarter of play, thanks to 11 points apiece from Mitchell and Clarkson. The performance was a good sign for the Jazz All-Star guard after missing two of the last three games with a lower left leg injury.

“The biggest thing for me was just trying to find my rhythm again,” Mitchell said. “Taking shots that I’m going to be able to take, that I know are going to be there.”

Mitchell used a two-man game with reserve center Tony Bradley who started in place of Rudy Gobert to do his damage. Mitchell scored 11 points on 3-4 shooting from beyond the arch and 2-2 from the free-throw line. With an increased focus on three-point shooting, Mitchell finding his rhythm before the playoffs will be key.

Jazz Win Hurts Draft Positioning

The Jazz playoff future was decided before the game thanks to the results of Wednesday night’s NBA schedule. The Spurs learned their 22-year playoff streak had come to an end just before tip-off. As a result, the Jazz victory resembled that of a summer league game, rather than the final game before the playoffs.

While the game didn’t determine how either team would finish their season, it did potentially alter the Jazz draft future. With the win, the Jazz climbed into a three-way tie for the 10th best record in the NBA with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers at 44-28. That would result in the 20th pick in the draft.

However, with the Heat and Pacers facing one another on Friday, the loser of the matchup will earn the 20th pick in the draft, and the winner will pass the Jazz by a half-game in the league standings.

Meanwhile, both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets have one game remaining, and each team sits a half-game behind the Jazz, Heat, and Pacers at 44-27. If the Thunder lose to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, they will pull into an even tie with the Jazz. Similarly, the Rockets face the Philadephia 76ers and could climb into a tie with the Jazz by losing.

So, if the Rockets and Thunder lose, they and the Jazz will be in a three-way tie for the 11th best record in the West. A tie-breaking drawing will determine who gets the 21st-23rd picks. Likewise, if just of the Rockets or Thunder lose, the NBA will use the tie-breaker to determine who picks 21st and 22nd between the Jazz and the losing team.

Had the Jazz lost to the Spurs they would have guaranteed themselves the 20th pick in the draft, now the could slip three spots lower to 23rd.

Opening the NBA Playoffs

Just as the Jazz reopened the NBA season on July 30th in the matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans, they are set to open the NBA playoffs.

The Jazz and Nuggets are the first game in a busy opening round schedule for the NBA in the bubble. The Jazz series opener against Denver will be played at 11:30 am MT on TNT.

The Jazz will play every other day through the first round if all seven games are required. The lack of time off between games may restrict the amount of adjustment that can be made game to game.

While it’s a cliche to say playoff series often turn into a chess match between head coaches, this year’s postseason may resemble more closely a game of fast chess than the traditional back and forth game of strategy.

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