Donovan Mitchell limped off the court at Staples Center with 7:05 left on the clock in the fourth quarter and went to the locker room.
He was favoring that right ankle that was sprained back in April, the one that kept him sidelined through the rest of the regular season and out of Game 1 of the Jazz’s first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies — even though he very publicly disagreed with the decision to hold him out of that game.
When Mitchell left the court the Jazz were trailing by 11 points, by the time he gingerly walked back out to the floor, the Los Angeles Clippers Game 3 lead had ballooned to 18 points and the Jazz couldn’t answer anything the home team was throwing at them.
Mitchell put his arm around the shoulders of Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and the two discussed the situation.
Mitchell could have played if the Jazz needed him to, but they weren’t going to win this one. So, rather than put Mitchell back on the floor and risk any further pain, Mitchell put his warm-up gear back on and watched from the bench as the Clippers won in blowout fashion, 132-106.
“He’s fine,” Snyder said of Mitchell. “He could have gotten back in the game. We’re kind of borderline there depending on where the game was. I just felt like it had gotten to I think an 18-point lead with four or five minutes to play and it just didn’t make sense at that point to put him back. In fact, we took our other guys out shortly thereafter as well.”
“It’s when I land. It’s been...just trying to manage it,” he said. “I don’t really know what else to tell you. I don’t want to say too much. It was just the landing. But, I’m good. I’ll be ready for Game 4.” — Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell echoed what his coach had told reporters following the game.
“I’m good,” he said. “I feel like I was able to go back...but no need to risk it.”
But, being ‘good’ and being 100% or being pain-free are completely different things, and what’s clear is that Mitchell is playing through some pain. He was limping at the end of Game 2 and again on Saturday when he left Game 3.
Playing through pain is not something that is new or foreign for NBA players.
“It’s part of the game,” Rudy Gobert said. “There is going to be some pain, but as long as it doesn’t get worse, and he’s still able to move and to play, hopefully it will be okay. I think he’s doing everything he can to try to be out there even though sometimes it might be painful.”
Gobert added that Mitchell’s pain or injury status is not something that Gobert is concerned about. If things were worse, he might be worried, but as it stands now, there isn’t any concern.
But Mitchell also seems to want to keep as much information about his injury close to the vest.
When asked if it was taking off or landing that was causing pain, Mitchell was a little cagey.
“It’s when I land. It’s been...just trying to manage it,” he said. “I don’t really know what else to tell you. I don’t want to say too much. It was just the landing. But, I’m good. I’ll be ready for Game 4.”
Whether Mitchell is trying to downplay the severity of what he’s dealing with, or try to keep reporters from making a bigger deal out of something that is not that serious, is unclear. He could have motivations that are entirely different from those two options. Maybe he’s just tired of talking about his right ankle.
What we know is that Mitchell is clearly in some pain and the biggest question moving forward is, will he be able to play through the pain, without things getting worse, for as long as the Jazz are in the playoffs?
That seems like a question that will only be answered with time.