Northwest Notes: Jazz, Mitchell, Timberwolves, Murray

Down 2-1 against the Mavericks without shooting guard Luka Doncic, the lone All-Star for Dallas this season, the Jazz face a probable must-win Game 4 at home today, per Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones considers the contest to be a critical moment for not just Utah’s season, but also for the future of its core roster: All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year finalist Rudy Gobert, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, pricey veteran point guard Mike Conley, and forward Bojan Bogdanovic.

“It’s a game that we gotta have,” Conley said of the Jazz’s mentality heading into the game. “We’re still a confident team. In no way, shape or form is this series over.”

“It’s up to us to adjust quicker on the fly on the court,” Gobert said. “We shouldn’t have to wait until halftime in order to start playing well. I like what we did in the second half. I like what we did defensively. The offense takes care of itself when we play that way defensively. Now, the question is can we have that mindset and maintain that mindset for 48 minutes?”

Jones contends that the Jazz should consider emphasizing small-ball lineups without Gobert during key stretches against Dallas today.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Several Jazz staffers were “surprised and upset” to see Knicks executive William Wesley and star power forward Julius Randle sitting courtside during the Jazz’s Game 1 matchup against the Mavericks, per Ian Begley of Begley notes that All-Star Utah guard Donovan Mitchell and breakout Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, have long been rumored New York targets. Mitchell is in the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary rookie contract extension he signed with the Jazz during the 2020 offseason, and would have to be moved in a trade to join the Knicks.
  • After coughing up a 25-point second half lead, the Timberwolves eventually fell to the Grizzlies in Minnesota to lose a critical Game 3 of their first-round series on Thursday, 104-95. Memphis is now up 2-1. The Timberwolves can still make this a series despite the demoralizing defeat, opines Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Krawczynski says the Wolves need to clamp down on defense throughout the contest and get All-Star center Karl Anthony-Towns more engaged on offense, steering him clear of unnecessary fouls.
  • Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, who missed back-to-back seasons with ACL and Achilles tears, appreciates Nuggets guard Jamal Murray‘s decision to not rush his return from his own ACL tear this season, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “I would just tell Jamal to keep in mind the big picture. He’s got a decade of greatness ahead of him. No need to compromise that now,” Thompson said in a lengthy conversation with Singer. “Fans are kind of unrealistic. They don’t realize how much it takes to build back your muscle to be able to compete at this level. This is the best basketball in the world. You don’t want to put your whole future at risk just because of win right now.” Thompson, Heat guard Victor Oladipo and Bulls guard Zach LaVine, all have helped Murray navigate his rehab.
  • In the same piece, Singer notes that Murray has yet to be officially ruled out from returning, though the Nuggets are all but eliminated from the postseason now, with the Warriors leading in their first round series against Denver 3-0. “We’re never going to take any short-term view with any of our players, and any decision on Jamal’s return will be made collectively,” Nuggets president Tim Connelly said. “Jamal’s among the toughest and most competitive guys in our league and is eager to play, but organizationally, we can’t be irresponsible with his return. His best days are undoubtedly ahead of him.” 
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