Wild Day Culminates In Jazz Win After Mitchell Ankle Injury
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz defeated the Indiana Pacers 119-111 after one of the most eventful days in franchise history.
The Jazz opened the day with the news that superstar Dwyane Wade would be buying an ownership stake in the team, welcomed guard Jordan Clarkson back from injury in time for a 1 pm Friday tip-off, and lost Donovan Mitchell to a scary ankle injury midway through the third quarter.
The weight of the circumstances seemed to press heavily on the Jazz who trailed by 17 points late in the second quarter, but a dominant second half carried the team to victory.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 24 points on 9-16 shooting, his third consecutive game scoring at least 23 points while handing the Pacers just their second loss in their last six games.
Donovan Mitchell Leaves Game With Ankle Injury
Despite the outcome of the game, all eyes are on the health of Mitchell who left the game with what looked like a scary ankle injury at the 8:23 mark of the third quarter with the Jazz trailing 74-65.
Mitchell jumped to defend a pass from the Pacers’ Edmund Sumner but came down awkwardly on his right ankle and had to be carried off the floor.
Mitchell didn’t return to the game after scoring 22 points in his first 21 minutes on the floor. The team announced that Mitchell suffered a sprained ankle before being ruled out with a sprained ankle.
The Jazz guard had missed just three games so far this season, two with a concussion in late January and one in March after the Jazz team hit a flock of birds en route to face the Memphis Grizzlies.
The guard is averaging 26.5 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.6 rebounds for the team in his fourth season with the Jazz.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, initial returns on Mitchell’s injury were promising.
“X-Rays negative and MRI coming tonight on Donovan Mitchell’s sprained right ankle, sources tell ESPN,” Wojnarowski tweeted.
“Lower ankle sprain and there’s some early optimism that this isn’t a major injury to Mitchell, sources tell ESPN.”
Gobert said he saw Mitchell after the game and felt a similar optimist about the guard’s potential return.
“I saw him in the locker room, he was in great spirits,” Gobert said. “So hopefully we can get him back soon.”
Jazz Erase 17 Point Deficit To Earn Win
The Jazz once again had a poor start in the first half, trailing by as much as 17 at multiple points before storming back in the third quarter.
Though the Jazz won the game, their string of slow starts has become an issue and will plague them if Mitchell misses extended games with the team. Dating back to their loss to Dallas on April 5, the Jazz have trailed by as much as 10 in five of their last seven games, and by at least seven in every outing.
Surprisingly the Jazz are 4-3 during the stretch of slow starts, but the wins have required valiant efforts in the second halves of games to stay close.
Indiana led 59-42 with 3:44 left in the second quarter, a lead the Jazz trimmed to 13 points at the break before the team seemed to find themselves focused on the game at hand.
The same thing happened in the Jazz win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday after trailing by 17 late in the first quarter, and again against the Washington Wizards when they trailed by 19 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, a deficit they couldn’t erase.
“We just have to begin the game playing solid defense,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the slow start. “We didn’t have the requisite level of aggressiveness, whether that meant our pickup points and our ball pressure, or guys on the weak side being more alert, aggressive, and shifted.”
The Pacers had been playing extremely well in the first half of games lately, having scored 70 points or more in three of their last seven games before their meeting with the Jazz. Indiana scored 69 points in the first half on Friday while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three.
But after a strong first half, the Jazz flipped the switch defensively and held the Pacers to one of their worst second halves of the season.
Indiana closed the game scoring just 42 points on 28 percent shooting from the floor and 24 percent from three. The Jazz meanwhile scored 63 points on 50 percent shooting and 45 percent from the three-point line to erase the double-digit deficit and coast to a victory in the final minutes of the game.
After a dominant opening half Domontas Sabonis scored just seven points on 2-10 shooting to finish the game with 22 points and 15 rebounds but was a team-worst -13 in 35 minutes on the floor.
Gobert closed with 13 points, 23 rebounds, and four blocks for the Jazz while the team outscored Indiana by 11 in the center’s 37 minutes. The French star has now grabbed at least 20 rebounds on five different occasions this season, with 23 marking his second-best outing of the year.
Gobert now has at least 20 rebounds in five different games this season. Prior to this year, the All-NBA center had never reached the mark more than three times in a single season.
Jazz Oddly Eventful Day
Friday marked one of the more bizarre days in recent Jazz history, which is no small feat considering they were at the center of the coronavirus pandemic a little more than a year ago.
The team entered the day with a bizarre 1 pm MT tip time on a non-holiday weekday. The league is having the Jazz play the early game in order to be rested enough to face the Los Angeles Lakers at 2:30 pm on Saturday.
Then, the pregame preparation was upended when it was announced that Miami Heat legend and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade was buying a minority share in the team, a truly groundbreaking moment for the team who adds one of the premier names in basketball history to its ownership group.
“For him to be so interested in joining an organization like this team, this city, this state, it says a lot,” guard Mike Conley said. “It says a lot about what he believes can come from it and the growth that can be made. So it’s pretty neat to see him in the stands and get to talk to him.”
Additionally, the Jazz welcomed Jordan Clarkson back to the lineup after missing four games with an ankle injury. Clarkson scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds in a crucial 27 minutes for the Jazz who desperately needed the guard after Mitchell went down with his ankle injury.
“You have to be able to take it each day by day,” Conley said of how Mitchell will have to approach the injury. ” One day you’re going to have a good day, the next day you might get set back another day or two. You have to be mentally prepared for that.”
Though the Jazz initial returns for Mitchell and his ankle injury are promising, there’s no greater threat to the team’s success this season than losing one of its best players for an extended period of time. With the full extent of Mitchell’s injury still unknown, the Jazz overly exciting day, unfortunately, hasn’t come to an end.