Mitchell Mum On Minutes, Excited For Utah Playoff Atmosphere

May 23, 2021, 1:18 PM
Jazz - Nuggets...
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz dunks against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of Game Three of first round playoffs at the AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 21, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Donovan Mitchell will be back in uniform for the Utah Jazz tonight as they take on the Memphis Grizzlies in game one of the NBA playoffs.

Though the guard has been cleared to return to the team after missing the final 16 games of the regular season with a severe ankle sprain, how many minutes he’ll be able to play for the Jazz remains a secret.

“I won’t say, just for gameplan purposes,” Mitchell said after the team’s shootaround. I won’t say.”

On Wednesday, the guard indicated he hadn’t had discussions about a potential minutes restriction, and wanted to see how his ankle responded to being back on the floor for the first time in five weeks.

After testing out the ankle, Mitchell said he was ready for tonight’s game.

“There’s always going to be soreness when you come back from an injury like this, there’s always going to be things that haven’t been activated in what has it been, five weeks?” Mitchell said. “But I feel good, ready to go tonight. No pain and excited to be going.”

Mitchell Excited For Utah Playoff Atmosphere

The Jazz will play in front of their fullest home crowd since March 9, 2020, the last game at Vivint Arena before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier in the week, the team announced that capacity for playoff home games would increase from 6,700 to close the season to 13,000 in the postseason.

“The playoff atmosphere, you have that adrenaline that takes you away,” Mitchell said of how he expects his ankle to respond to live-action.

The Jazz have been the league’s best home team this season, finishing the year 31-6 in Utah, including a 24 game undefeated streak midway through the year. That included a two-game sweep of the Grizzlies in late March, though Mitchell said the team isn’t focused on past success against the Memphis squad.

“You throw those games out,” Mitchell said. “You take certain things from it, but I think as a whole, the team they were and the team we are two different teams.”

The Grizzlies were just 22-23 after losing to the Jazz three times over a five-day stretch but finished the season on a 16-11 run, including winning eight of their final 10 games.

Though the plays and the players are the same on both teams, Mitchell said to expect changes in how Utah and Memphis prepare for one another.

“More attention to detail that we didn’t necessarily see in those first three games from both sides,” the All-Star said. “I think that’s what you’re going to see come playoff time.  Definitely schematics and stuff drawn up tailored to each individual player.”

Grizzlies Not Just Happy To Be Here

Making the playoffs required a herculean effort from the Grizzlies, having to win eight of their final 10 games to qualify for the playoffs, including two postseason play-in tournament wins over the last week just to get here.

But despite the accomplishment, guard Dillon Brooks insists the team hasn’t reached their goals.

“We play free, we pay to play together, guys are happy to be here, but not satisfied,” Brooks said. “We’re just gonna come out there play hard, play our game, and let the chips fall where they may.”

As for how the Grizzlies are going to approach game one with just a 48-hour turnaround after beating the Warriors on Friday, Brooks has that figured out as well.

“Quin Snyder is a great coach who is always going to have something up his sleeve,” Brooks said. “You try to find a rhythm in this series with your shots, with your defense, with the guys you’re guarding, to ultimately go into each and every game just getting better.”

The Jazz and Grizzlies tip-off tonight at 7:30 pm MT on TNT.

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