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The battle ahead for the Utah Jazz

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Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell puts his head down near the end of Game 5 against the Clippers.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) puts his head down near the end of the game during Game 5 of their NBA playoff series against the LA Clippers in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. The Jazz lost 119-111.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Jazz Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Thursday.

This is it. Win, or go home.

The Utah Jazz are facing elimination after losing a third straight game to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. The Clippers lead the Western Conference semifinal series 3-2 after a Game 5 win at Vivint Arena.

Even with Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely with a knee injury, the Jazz are fighting an uphill battle. Let’s say that Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley are both able to play in Friday’s Game 6 at Staples Center, just because they play doesn’t mean that they are healthy and as able as they were in the regular season.

Right now, this Jazz team is not the same team that won 52 games and earned the No. 1 seed. Mitchell and Conley’s injuries have changed the way the Jazz are able to defend, the way they run their offense and what they’re capable of. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

Though the Jazz might be facing steep climb, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to give up.

“We can’t really sit here and sulk,” Mitchell said after Game 5. “The series is not over. We’ve got a lot of life left to give and a lot of juice to give and we’ve got to go out there and play with a level of desperation that we’ve never played with before, otherwise we’ll be home.”

Even if the Jazz were to win Game 6 and 7 against the Clippers and advance to the Western Conference finals, they’d have another huge battle ahead of them. Conley and Mitchell wouldn’t have any time to rest or heal because the Phoenix Suns, who swept the Denver Nuggets, have been resting and waiting for their next opponent.

Now the question is, do you bring back Conley, whose hamstring is not completely healed, and play Mitchell once again on an injured ankle, just so that you can maybe beat the Clippers and then lose to the Suns?

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Bojan Bogdanovic matched a Jazz playoff record by hitting nine 3-pointers in Game 5 against the Clippers. The record was set by Donovan Mitchell is last year’s playoffs.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast”, hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster).

New episodes come out every Wednesday with bonus episodes to come often and a recap episode after every playoff game. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

In the June 22, 2017 draft, the Utah Jazz traded up 11 spots in order to get No. 13 overall draft selection Donovan Mitchell.

Extra points

  • Have injuries ruined the NBA playoffs? All-Stars are falling at a record pace (Deseret News)
  • They say ‘it’s hope that kills you’: Can the Utah Jazz prove that theory wrong? (The Athletic)
  • How can the Utah Jazz get the blender going again? (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • With Joe Ingles facing Paul George in the playoffs, is one of the NBA’s most entertaining ‘beefs’ about to return? (Deseret News)

Around the league

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul is in COVID-19 health and safety protocols and could miss time in Western Conference finals.

The Dallas Mavericks will have a new head of basketball operations and a new head coach next season with both Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle out.

Washington Wizards part ways with head coach Scott Brooks.

Up next: NBA playoffs

June 18 | 8 p.m. | Game 6 at Los Angeles Clippers | ESPN

June 20 | 1:30 p.m. | *Game 7 vs. Los Angeles Clippers | ABC

* Game if necessary