These plucky Utah Jazz will not go down easy.

Even when their future was not in their hands any longer on Tuesday night, the basketball gods refused to end the Jazz’s postseason hopes.

First, the Jazz wouldn’t stop swinging against the Los Angeles Lakers. No Lauri Markkanen, no Walker Kessler, no Jordan Clarkson, up against LeBron James and Anthony Davis — might as well force the Lakers to play in overtime.

The Jazz eventually lost, 135-133, in extra time to the Lakers, which put their Play-In Tournament hopes in the hands of the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Earlier in the night the Minnesota Timberwolves won. That, combined with a Jazz loss and a Thunder win would have officially eliminated the Jazz from postseason contention.

Alas, the Warriors won and the Jazz’s chances at a Play-In spot, while slim, remain alive.

Collin Sexton returns and wants to play the season out

After missing 18 consecutive games nursing a hamstring injury, Collin Sexton finally got back on the court on Tuesday and you could tell that he was chomping at the bit, waiting for that moment.

Sexton, more than any other player I have covered in the last 10 years, loves basketball with an unconditional and external energy that is impossible to contain. He is an absolute ball of joy and competitiveness and speed that lights up when he’s on the court.

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“He’s the same Collin I remember,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “He’s uncountable, he doesn’t have a ton of tendencies. It feels like he is just all competitiveness, gives our team such a lift just energy-wise. It is infectious, contagious, however you want to describe it. The guys love how he plays, you can see him pumping up the crowd. It’s the same Collin that we all know and it’s the Collin that we’ve missed for the last 18 games. It was great to see him out there.”

In just under 16 minutes off the bench, Sexton had 15 points and three assists. He went 0-of-5 from 3-point range, but after being out for so long, that’s not really something that you pay too much attention to or worry about. Elsewhere on the court he went 7-of-9, so clearly he still had his burst and his finishing ability.

Sexton will meet with the Jazz’s training and medical staff on Wednesday to see how he feels, but if his demeanor after the game was any indication, he’ll have only positive things to report. He said that he’s felt really strong and ready for a while, but was just ramping up on his conditioning to get back to playing competitively. Now that he’s got a game back under his belt, he wants to finish out the season on the court.

“I told everyone that I want to play it out,” he said. “That’s just my character. That’s just who I am. No matter what, it can be meaningful basketball, it could be meaningless, it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna go play no matter what.”

Of course, the Jazz’s training staff and everyone else have to sign off on him playing the final three games of the season, but it’s clear that Sexton is ready to be back in a real way.

Another down-to-the-wire game

The Jazz have played in 50 clutch games this season, which means that 50 of their games have had a 5-point differential or less in the last five minutes.

This time they came back from down 10 with less than two minutes to play in regulation to tie it at the end and force overtime. They ended up on the losing side, but having that many close games should give the Jazz a pretty good feeling heading into next season.

14 of the Jazz’s games this season have been decided by two points or less with the Jazz going 8-6 in those games, including Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers.

If the Jazz win just six more close games this season, they probably clinch a playoff spot.

“We’re one shot away, by either team, from feeling way different than we feel right now,” Hardy said. “That doesn’t take away from the fact that I thought the team played a good game and that they really competed the entire night.”

They have been able to do this even when their best players have been sidelined, when they have new guys on the team, playing with guys on 10-day contracts, etc, etc, etc. Like I said, this team doesn’t go down without a fight, and that’s something that they can take into next season.