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The Utah Jazz are the first Western Conference team to advance and other takeaways from the NBA playoffs

The Jazz handled the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series, and Damian Lillard offered a reminder of how great he is.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell passes the ball in Game 5 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) passes the ball across court as the Utah Jazz and the Memphis Grizzlies play in Game 5 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Utah won 126-110, Utah advances to the second round.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz are headed to the second round.

Entering the postseason, it was all but assumed that the Jazz — the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA Playoffs — would make it at least as far as the conference semifinals. After losing Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against the Memphis Grizzlies a little doubt crept in, though.

That is until Utah won four consecutive games, the last of which, played Wednesday night at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, was a lesson in dominance. The Jazz handled the Grizzlies from start to finish in Game 5, winning 126-110.

As a result, Utah became the first Western Conference team to advance in this year’s playoffs and now awaits the winner of the Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Clippers series.

The series against Memphis turned in the Jazz’s favor when Donovan Mitchell returned to the court and what a return it was. Mitchell was an impact player the moment he entered the series, averaging 28.5 points, 7.8 assists and three rebounds per game, while shooting 46% from the field, 41% from behind the arc and 94% at the free-throw line.

Among active NBA players, Mitchell (27.4) now has the fourth-highest ppg average in the playoffs, per StatMuse, behind only Kevin Durant (29.2), LeBron James (28.7) and Anthony Davis (28.1).

In the series-clinching Game 5, Mitchell made franchise history with 30 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and five made 3-pointers, a collection of statistics no other Jazz player had ever managed. He also joined John Stockton and Deron Williams as the only Jazz men to score 30 or more points and hand out 10 or more assists in a playoff game.

If Mitchell continues to play at this high of a level, the Jazz should be considered one of the favorites to win the NBA title and they currently have the second-best odds of any team, behind only the Brooklyn Nets.


Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic celebrates after a score during the second half in Game 5 of an first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Los Angeles.
Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

Dallas lands the latest blow in slugfest with the Clippers

Arguably the most thrilling series of the first round — or at the very least the most unpredictable one — has been played between the Mavericks and the Clippers.

The Mavericks were considerable underdogs entering the series, but won the first two games, on the road no less. The Clippers then bounced back and won consecutive games in Dallas to even the series up at 2 games apiece.

Game 5 was Wednesday night and once again the visiting team won. Dallas defeated Los Angeles 105-100, led by Luke Doncic’s 42 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds.

The game went down to the wire, and Kawhi Leonard had the chance to tie things up at 103 with less than five seconds remaining, but he air-balled his potential game-tying 3-point attempt.

With that miss, Dallas became the favorite to play the Jazz in the second round and it is almost all due to Doncic. The third-year player has been otherworldly this postseason, averaging 35 points, 9.4 assists and eight rebounds a game. Doncic has been the best player in the NBA in the playoffs.

With him leading the charge, Dallas is one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference right now, as long as one of Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porziņģis or Dorian Finney-Smith make their mark as well.


Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard during the second half of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Denver.
Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

Is Damian Lillard the most entertaining player in the NBA?

As great as Doncic has been, no single player has captivated NBA fandom more this postseason than Damian Lillard.

The Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night in double overtime, falling behind in the series 3-2, but not because of anything Lillard did or didn’t do.

The Weber State alumnus was simply incredible and his performance was record-breaking.

Lillard scored 55 points — a new playoff career-high — and dished out 10 assists. No player in NBA history had ever scored 55 points and tallied 10 assists in playoff game.

Lillard made 12 3-pointers, another NBA first, shot 17 of 24 from the field and sent the game into both overtime and double overtime.

It was a performance for the ages and Lillard earned plenty of respect from his fellow NBA players.

Durant tweeted, among other things: “I had like 4 tweets I wanted to write to describe this MASTERPIECE by Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard Sr, but I am seriously at a loss for words.”

Austin Rivers, who had to guard Lillard throughout the game, was even more effusive with his praise on Instagram (note profanity in the post), and described the task of guarding him as “really fun.”

“He’s as tough as they come,” Rivers wrote. “No lie.”


Elsewhere around the NBA playoffs ...

  • The Eastern Conference semifinals are set, with the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia 76ers slated to face off against the No. 5-seeded Atlanta Hawks, while the No. 2-seed Brooklyn Nets will battle the No. 3-seed Milwaukee Bucks. The 76ers, Hawks and Nets won their first-round series’ in five games, against the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics, respectively, while the Bucks swept the Miami Heat.
  • Both the Phoenix Suns and Nuggets have the opportunity to close out their series’ Thursday night, against the Los Angeles Lakers and Trail Blazers, respectively. The Suns pummeled the Lakers on Tuesday, a blowout that was overshadowed by Lillard’s excellence. The Suns were excellent, though, from start to finish. As for the Nuggets, they’ve won three games against Portland, even though Lillard went off.