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3-1. What a difference a year (and opponent) makes

Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, wearing a gradient city jersey that moves from bright yellow to deep red with the number “45,” has his arms outstretched defending against Denver Nuggets’ Torrey Craig in a blue jersey and a white headband. The back of a referee’s head is at the bottom.
Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (45) defends against Denver Nuggets’ Torrey Craig during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. When the Utah Jazz went up 3-1 over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs, it was natural for everyone to remember what happened in 2020.
Ashley Landis, Associated Press
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When the Utah Jazz went up 3-1 over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs, it was natural for everyone to think back to the last time the Jazz had a 3-1 series lead over a first-round opponent.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder and the Jazz players were asked about similarities of the situations and whether the experience last year impacted them. Donovan Mitchell in particular has brought up the 2020 experience of blowing a 3-1 edge to the Denver Nuggets multiple times this season.

Following the Jazz’s closeout victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, while sitting in as an analyst on “Inside the NBA” on TNT, said that it’s time for the Jazz to stop talking about last year.

I land somewhere in the middle on this debate.

Snyder’s comments about the Nuggets series from last season have always been about looking forward. This is a different team, that plays a different style, and while the experience was valuable, the Jazz are on a different path.

“Last year is last year, and this year is this year,” Snyder said after the Jazz’s Game 5 closeout win over the Grizzlies. “The thing about this time of year is that it’s as important to be able to forget, as it is to be able to remember.”

As the head coach, Snyder has a responsibility to keep pushing the team forward. It would be very weird if he was the one bringing up last season all the time, reminding his players of how they blew a commanding series lead and were sent packing after the first round. Pushing that narrative away and telling the Jazz that they are destined for greatness beyond the first round is the right approach for a coach to take.

But, I also believe that there is value in the players using their heartbreaking loss to the Nuggets as fuel and motivation.

“Having that be so fresh in our brain, having that hurt still there, I think definitely helped,” Mitchell said.

Remembering the way that it felt to lose that lead and get on the bus at the arena in the Orlando bubble and go home after being away from family and friends for weeks, the embarrassment of being one of the very few NBA teams to have every blown a 3-1 playoff series lead, the pain of losing — that can be used to motivate for years.

It’s clear that Mitchell and some of the other players have used that 3-1 loss to fuel them this season and so far in the playoffs. But now, this team is on to the Western Conference semifinals and they’ll have to dig even deeper to find the fuel to continue to win.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Royce O’Neale is shooting 53.6% from 3-point range through the 2020-21 NBA playoffs, a career-best playoff shooting percentage for the fourth-year Jazz man.

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

On May 29, 1997, John Stockton nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to lift Utah to a 103-100 win against the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. That victory gave the Jazz the series and the franchise its first NBA Finals appearance.

Extra points

  • Mark Eaton and Rudy Gobert’s bond over basketball and biking (New York Times)
  • Five stops: The stories behind the coaching odyssey that brought Quin Snyder to the Utah Jazz (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Vivint Arena returning to full capacity for second round of playoffs (Deseret News)

Around the league

Meniscus tear could keep Joel Embiid sidelined during Sixers playoff run.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard wins Teammate of the Year award.

Up next: NBA playoffs

TBD | TBD | Game 1 vs. Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers | TBD

TBD | TBD | Game 2 vs. Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers | TBD

TBD | TBD | Game 3 at Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers | TBD

TBD | TBD | Game 4 at Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers | TBD

TBD | TBD | Game 5* vs. Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers | TBD

* Game if necessary