After another disappointing playoff exit, a now-healthy Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz are ready to renew their title quest. After a disappointing first-round exit against Denver in the 2020 bubble, the Jazz achieved the best regular-season record in the NBA in 2021. While Utah ousted Memphis in their first-round matchup, they suffered a frustrating loss to the Clippers in round two.
During Utah's playoff run, Donovan Mitchell played hurt in the wake of an ankle injury sustained on April 16. After sitting the final 16 games of the regular season, Mitchell missed Game 1 of the first-round Memphis matchup. Upon returning to the lineup, Mitchell played well but couldn't rely on his athleticism as he usually would.
"That injury kept me on the ground for the entire playoffs, and it allowed me to have to make decisions on the ground. Slow it down. Different things that really opened things up to (where) I was like, 'OK, this is another level, (a) layer of my game that I can get without (the athleticism)." Donovan Mitchell
Though not healthy, Donovan Mitchell remained the driving force of Utah's offense. Mitchell torched Memphis and the Clippers to the tune of 32 points per game, even on a bum ankle. Despite Mitchell's heroics, the Jazz lost in 6 games after going up 2-0 to start the second round. While Utah has suffered consecutive disappointing post-season exits, Mitchell and the Jazz are ready to rebound.
With a healthy Mitchell, Utah is ready to turn the page
While last year was suboptimal for the Jazz, Mitchell is ready to apply the lessons of last year to the upcoming season. Though Mitchell felt the Jazz got too comfortable last year, this season will be different.
"This year, it's like, "No, keep the foot on the gas. Full 48. Finish the game, finish the series, close it out and let's get ready for what's next." And ultimately, we won't be happy until we win a chip." Donovan Mitchell
For Utah, it's all about taking their regular-season success on offense and defense and maintaining an elite level through the entire season. Playing hurt, Mitchell still proved he could produce at a high level. If healthy, it doesn't seem like there is a limit to what Mitchell can achieve. Now the question will be whether the rest of the team can play up to his lofty standards.