As he wrapped up his media interview on Friday night, Utah jazz star Donovan Mitchell gave a message of hope to a fanbase that blew his team a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for the sixth time this season.
“I know it’s bad. Fans, hang out with us, man,” said Mitchell, whose team finished the regular season on the street against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night. “I promise you, we’ll be fine. I promise you.”
Mitchell & Co. and their frustrated followers, stunned at 111-105 by visiting Phoenix Suns after leading 17 in the final quarter, can only hope so.
The Jazz (48-33) aim to bounce back when they oppose the trail blazer, losing at a straight rate of 10. Portland (27-54) is returning home after a 0-5 road trip after a 128-78 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Win or lose, Portland will end the season as the sixth team from the bottom of the NBA standings, with the possibility of winning the draft lottery next month.
“We have to stay together,” Portland’s Ben McLemore said after the 50-point defeat. “That’s what we can do.”
Utah will pick No. 5 with a win in the Western Conference Playoff Sunday. The Nuggets (48-33) must beat the visiting Los Angeles Lakers and beat the Jazz to jump to Utah as the Jazz take ownership of the Denver tiebreaker due to a 4-0 season-series sweep.
Although the level of competition is day and night, the Jazz must avoid a mental collapse that occurred in the fourth quarter against the league-leading Sun, when they scored 36-13.
Mitchell had the worst quarterback, missing all six of his field-goal attempts, but the Jazz had just 3 shots out of 20 as a team. This included shooting from 3-point range to 9-for-1.
This makes many Utah fans wonder what’s going on with the jazz, who play great for stretch and then grab.
“I don’t think any kind of voodoo hex is floating around. Maybe there’s a little bit of concern, “said jazz coach Quinn Snyder. “I don’t think it’s a magical thing that we want to lose the lead. I don’t see a team every day that has some kind of mental barrier to overcome. It’s just more about flat-out execution, digging and focusing, and being able to move from one play to another. “
Mitchell thinks it might be a bit psychological, though he doesn’t want the jazz to focus on it. He believes they need to relax and play more independently.
“It can be a mental thing, it can be … we just play in tension,” Mitchell said. “You can sit here and say, ‘Oh, it’s emotional’ – it can feel that way, it definitely feels that way on the field. But if we go there, we’ve already lost the game at that point.”
Blazers are looking for something positive to take offseason.
“My thing is, I just want to fight,” said first-year Portland coach Chancey Bilups. “There was a drama (Dallas) late in the game where I thought – there were some players I got in our huddle because we kind of got in and left the game. To me it is unacceptable.
“It is a matter of pride and privilege to be able to play in this league and to get a minute in this league. And no matter what happens in the game, you still have to keep fighting. ” – Reuters