Donovan Mitchell hasn’t stopped thinking about the Utah Jazz blowing a 3-1 lead to Denver in last season's playoffs.
Even as allergies woke him up every hour a night before the Jazz played with another 3-1 series advantage against the Memphis Grizzlies, Mitchell focused on starting fast and finishing strong.
Mtichell scored 26 of his 30 points in the first half and the Jazz advanced to the second round of the playoffs, beating the Grizzlies 126-110 on Wednesday night in Game 5.
"I think setting the tone was huge. We did that as unit on both ends of the floor and understanding that you can’t give a team like that life," Mitchell said about Utah’s quick start.
Mitchell also had 10 assists and six rebounds in 29 minutes, getting a little rest before facing the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks matchup.
"These allergies have been kicking my butt, probably the worst I have ever had," Mitchell sniffled.
On the court, Mitchell was doing all the butt kicking and made sure this playoff outcome was different than last season.
"Donovan’s got better every single year since he’s got here and obviously having him back was key and was huge for us because of the way we’re playing now. It’s fun to play with Donovan," said Rudy Gobert, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds for Utah.
Jordan Clarkson scored 24 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 17 points to help power the top-seeded Jazz to their fourth straight victory.
Even after a cool fourth quarter, the Jazz shot 53%.
"We really moved the ball, and when we do that, the first thing that has to happen is we have to space -- we can’t be standing next to each other -- to move the ball the way we want. We had the willingness to pass and to shoot," Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
The Memphis big three all played effectively on offense, but got little help from the supporting cast. Ja Morant finished his record-setting first playoff series with 27 points and 11 assists. Dillon Brooks also had 27 points, and Jonas Valanciunas added 18.
"Ja has grown up so much this year. I know he’s going to be highly motivated going into the offseason to take it to the next level as a player (and) continue to help this team take the next step. His words going into the locker room were ‘We will be back’ and that’s a great mentality. ... He’s only continuing to scratch the surface of what he can become as a player," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
Mitchell capped Utah’s big first half with two contested 26-foot jumpers to make it 75-51 and bring the 13,000 fans to their feet.
The Jazz out-passed the Grizzlies’ slow rotations and scored on 16 of 19 possessions to start the game, highlighted by shooting 8 for 10 from 3-point range. Mitchell scored 14 points in six minutes and the Jazz led 47-27 at the end of the first quarter — two more than previous team postseason record for any quarter of 45 set in 1991.
"We attacked the rim. We shared the ball, and we played defense. When we move the ball, we get in the paint and we move the ball like we did, I don’t think there is a one defensive scheme that can really stop us. We’ve seen them all," Gobert said.
Clarkson’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter gave the Jazz their largest lead at 91-56
"We got to see how we matched up against a No. 1 seed and we gave them every single fight that we could. Our defense got tested. We could have played with the pass a little better during this series. Guys just got to watch film and make their weaknesses their strengths so when we come back, we’re gonna be that unstoppable team," Brooks said.
The Jazz have played all season with the bitter taste that blown lead to Denver but they didn’t even give Memphis a glimmer of hope to repeat history in this elimination game and led wire-to-wire as they reached the second round for the first time since 2018.
"This game is over, this series is over and we didn’t come this far to just win one series … we got to go out there and do it again and again and again," Mitchell said.
The Grizzlies believe they grew throughout the series and will be ready to take a similar step to Utah’s next year.
"None of us like losing. We definitely didn’t want our season to end the way it did. But, I mean, we have a lot to be proud of -- our fight," Morant said. "Everybody is hungry for more."
WILL CONLEY BE READY FOR ROUND 2?
Mike Conley left with 8:58 left in the second quarter due to right hamstring soreness and did not return. He missed 21 games during the season, primarily due to his balky hamstring.
"In the first quarter, I felt just the little tug or whatever in my hammy," Conley said. "I made the bench and made the staff aware … but it just kept getting more and more sore as I was running on it so they decided to pull me."
The former Memphis star was discouraged especially as he worked so hard in training and missed so many games at the end of the regular season to be ready for the playoffs.
"I’m frustrated, for sure, after … I put a lot of effort into showing up early, staying late, strengthening, running, conditioning, everything," Conley said.
Grizzlies: After being subjected to fan misconduct in Game 2, Morant’s family members were given courtside seats by Utah owner Ryan Smith. … Memphis scored more points in the paint than Utah in all of the first four games but were outscored inside 60-52.
Jazz: New minority owner Dwayne Wade sat courtside and said, "Everybody take note! The Jazz are headed to the second round." … Jazz matched a franchise playoff record with nine 3s in the first quarter. … There was a moment of silence before the game in honor of former Jazz center Mark Eaton. He died last week at age 64.