Utah Jazz: Predicting Donovan Mitchell’s production in return from injury

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) /

Rust won’t be lacking in Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell’s first game back.

Sprained ankles are no joke, says the writer who recently imitated the injury of Utah Jazz centerpiece Donovan Mitchell. Granted, my unwelcomed tumble was a product of ill-advised smartphone usage while walking a headstrong mutt in a neighborhood with indistinct curbs during the pitch-black night.

Mitchell’s fall, of course, was of the more valiant variety. It came on the court for the Jazzmen during their April 16 home win over the Indiana Pacers. As a result, he missed the final 16 games of the regular season plus Sunday’s Game 1 home loss, 112-109, to the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies.

But the two-time All-Star is finally set to lace ’em up again in Game 2 of No. 1 seed Utah’s first-round playoff series, which tips off at 8 p.m. MT Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

An expected minutes restriction for the Utah Jazz sensation?

Across the five Utah Jazz games leading up to his injury, Donovan Mitchell averaged 36.8 points. Yet that level of production is highly unlikely out of the gates in his long-awaited return.

This means that folks also shouldn’t bank on him scoring 35 points, which was his total in each of his two games against the Memphis Grizzlies this season (the Jazz swept the regular-season series, 3-0).

In fact, considering the lack of tune-up outings and abundance of precaution the organization has thus far shown, it would be a surprise if Mitchell sees more than 30 minutes of action. That said, given what are pretty much must-win circumstances, it’d be a shock if the 24-year-old doesn’t receive a starting nod from Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.

If the squad puts the game out of the Grizzlies’ reach early, then Mitchell may play sparingly in the second half. Besides, his conditioning is sure to be lacking, especially when considering the historically heightened energy levels in the playoffs.

On the other hand, seeing that the 6-foot-1, 215-pound playmaker is Utah’s premier individual shot-creator — a key when facing the Memphis defense — one would think Mitchell has to be on the floor late in the fourth quarter should the all-important contest come down to the wire.

Plus, it could help in the long run — assuming the Jazz’s playoff run is long — to allow Mitchell ample opportunities to rediscover his shooting touch, rhythm, and stamina as soon as possible.

Furthermore, chances are he will play a tad “angry” after being left with no choice but to watch his team come up short in Game 1 despite his self-proclaimed readiness beforehand.

So now, without further ado, here’s the predicted Game 2 stat line for Mitchell: 22 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, and five turnovers while shooting 8-for-18 from the field across 28 minutes.

Mistakes and misses will add up. Yet look for his teammates to step up.

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On that note, another forecast here is that the Jazzmen will prevail, 116-96, then further unleash “top dog” Donovan Mitchell for Game 3 in Memphis at 7:30 p.m. MT Saturday.