All signs pointed toward Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan “Spida” Mitchell returning to the hardwood for the opening game of the Western Conference playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies after being sidelined because of an ankle injury. However, Mitchell was a last-minute scratch for the Jazz shortly before the tip-off of Game 1, angering him, bettors, and fans when the Jazz lost the first game of the postseason.

Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell Injury Ankle Playoffs Memphis Grizzlies
Utah Jazz leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (ankle injury) was a last-minute scratch against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. (Image: Getty)

The #1 Utah Jazz lost Game 1 at home, 112-109 against the #8 Memphis Grizzlies. Mitchell, who was fully recovered from his injury, was wicked pissed that he didn’t get a chance to suit up in the three-point loss.

Mitchell initially suffered the injury in mid-April and sat out the remainder of the regular season to rest up for the playoffs. He missed the Jazz’s final 16 games, and the team was just 10-6 without their leading scorer.

“For me, for my team, I was definitely frustrated and upset that I wasn’t able to play,” said Mitchell. “I’m a competitor. I felt I was ready to go. I felt ready to go, and unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

The Jazz have championship aspirations and wanted to keep Mitchell fresh for the long haul. But the decision didn’t bode well with Mitchell, who discovered the team’s game plan moments before tip-off. Even his teammates were surprised.

“Obviously, that’s tough on our team when we’re expecting a guy like that back,” starting point guard Mike Conley said. “But definitely a game-changer when you know a guy of his caliber is not able to play.”

Fear the Spida

Mitchell, an All-Star for the past two seasons, averaged a career-high 26.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game in his fourth season with the Jazz. He also shot a career-best 38.6% as a part of Quin Snyder’s three-guard offense along with Conley and Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson.

Last postseason, Mitchell lit up the Denver Nuggets during a sensational seven-game series inside the NBA Bubble with a pair of 50-plus point games. Mitchell erupted for 57 points in an overtime loss in Game 1, scored 51 points in Game 4, then added 44 points in Game 6.

The Jazz blew a 3-1 lead over the slow-starting Nuggets and were eliminated from the first round of the 2020 playoffs. The early exit stung and the Jazz came into this postseason on a mission to win the stacked Western Conference. The Jazz finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 52-20.

Ja and the Grizzles strike first blood in Game 1

The Jazz took advantage of a horrible shooting stretch from the Grizzlies and went on a 15-0 run late in the first quarter to take a 12-point lead. However, the Grizzlies rallied and hunkered down on defense, holding the Jazz to just 19 points in the second quarter. The Jazz trailed 49-43 at halftime, but couldn’t get anything going until late in the fourth quarter.

The Jazz shot 25.5% from 3-point range in the Game 1 loss, with 47 total attempts and 35 misses. They really could’ve used Spida’s scoring prowess. Joe Ingles started at shooting guard in place of Mitchell. He scored only 11 points in 33 minutes of action, but shot 3-for-7 from long range.

Clarkson scored just 14 points off the bench on 0-for-8 from 3-point range. Overall, the Jazz’s bench shot 1-for-15 from downtown.

“Whether it was the offensive rebounds or the turnovers, the Griz just had a lot more possessions than we did and that’s hard to overcome,” said Snyder. “I was happy with the fact that we fought and got back in the game there at the end. We all know we need to play better, and need to execute better.”

Bojan Bogdanovic erupted for 20 points in the fourth quarter during a last-gasp attempt by the Jazz to steal a win after trailing throughout the second half. Bogdanovic finished with a team-high 29 points in the loss. Dillion Brooks led the Grizzlies with 31 points in the victory. Morant added 26 points. Big man Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

On Deck: Jazz/Grizzlies Game 2

The Jazz host the Grizzlies for Game 2 on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, and Mitchell will definitely suit up for a shot to even the series.

“The biggest thing for us is moving forward,” added Mitchell. “We lost Game 1, and we’ve got s–t to handle. Excuse my language, we’ve got stuff to handle moving forward.”

The Jazz are -8.5 favorites and -370 on the money line. Morant and the Grizzlies are +370 underdogs in this one.

The top-seed Jazz entered this series as a massive favorite at -1250 odds to advance, whereas the Grizzlies were a +720 underdog as the #8 seed. After a Game 1 loss, oddsmakers at DraftKings updated their series lines. The Jazz dropped to -335 favorites to win the series, while the Grizzlies bumped to +250 to upset the Jazz.

According to a recent update by DraftKings, the Jazz are +800 to win the 2021 NBA Championship. The Grizzlies are one of the long shots on the futures board at +13000 to win the title.

You can back the Jazz at +330 odds to win the Western Conference.

Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

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