Utah Jazz struggle without Donovan Mitchell, but also show they can win without him

Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson each take turns carrying the offense, as Utah holds on for a 111-107 win in Memphis.

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) shoots in front of Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Turns out that Donovan Mitchell guy is pretty important to the Utah Jazz.

Who knew?

Sure, they led almost from start to finish in Wednesday’s 111-107 victory over the Grizzlies in Memphis, but nothing really came easy without their All-Star guard and leading scorer.

Then again, that’s the glass-half-empty perspective.

The half-full view is that, even coming in frazzled after their first charter flight Tuesday had an engine destroyed mid-flight by a bird strike, and even without their primary option, who stayed behind in Salt Lake City following the plane incident, they still had enough to eke their way to a seventh consecutive victory and a 36-11 record on the season.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley all took turns carrying the offense, and proving that Utah is far from hopeless without its top scorer and co-initiator.

“Our team takes pride in that balance and in making the right play,” coach Quin Snyder said afterward. “We’re unselfish, and if everybody’s spaced and we make quick decisions and are willing to move the ball, we’ve got a number of guys who can really impact the game on the offensive end.”

To his point …

Bogdanovic drilled a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter, then, after a lull, picked it up again late — mostly by operating out of the paint and either earning trips to the free-throw line or finding teammates for better looks. He finished with 23 points (plus five rebounds and three assists).

Clarkson didn’t exactly shake his recent bout of inefficiency but kept the Grizzlies off-balance by alternatively attacking the rim and firing away from deep, as he totaled 24 points (and seven rebounds).

Conley, meanwhile, saved his best for last, accounting for 21 points in the fourth quarter — 13 by himself, and eight on assists to teammates. He finished with team-highs in both points (26) and assists (seven), and contributed defensively, too (four steals).

“Well, I think It’s a great win — it says a lot about our character, our resiliency as a team,” Conley said. “Obviously without Donovan as well, we knew it was going to be a tough night for us against a young team that competes and plays as hard as any team in the league. And you don’t beat a team three times in a matter of a week very often.”

True enough.

Still, pulling out the victory was’t easy, partly because the Jazz were not particularly strong in some specific areas.

Normally so dominant in the third quarter, they managed only 18 points in that period Wednesday thanks to a 5-for-20 shooting effort, as an eight-point halftime lead became a one-point deficit going into the fourth.

Normally so prolific and efficient from beyond the arc, the Jazz were a pretty meh 16 of 49 on Wednesday — including a downright mediocre 9 for 34 (26.5%) over the final three quarters.

The ball movement was sub-ideal (20 assists on 38 baskets), and the transition defense was underwhelming (25 points allowed off turnovers).

So, yeah, this win wasn’t exactly pretty.

But it was still a win.

And given everything that came before, it was one they could feel really good about.

“Our whole group showed a lot of grit,” Snyder said. “… We were able to play through adversity, whatever shape or form it took.”

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