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Quin Snyder still optimistic heading into win-or-go-home Game 6

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) puts his head down near the end of the game during Game 5 of the NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. 
The Jazz lost 119-111.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) puts his head down near the end of the game during Game 5 of the NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. The Jazz lost 119-111. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News )

SALT LAKE CITY — Moments after Utah's Game 5 loss, All-NBA center Rudy Gobert painted a less than optimistic picture.

Gobert said the team lacked urgency; and though he could point to possible reasons — fatigue, their own injuries, Kawhi Leonard out — the fact he was talking about urgency in the middle of a playoff series was, in a word, concerning.

Someone who isn't feeling that same level of concern heading into Friday's do-or-die Game 6 against the LA Clippers (8 p.m. MDT, ESPN) is Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

"I think we are (resilient)," Snyder said Thursday before his team left for Los Angeles for what could be its final game of the season. "You can't help but feel positive about our group, even when you're faced with a situation like we have, coming off a loss and heading into a Game 6 that's a win-or-go-home-type game for us, so it's something our guys have responded to."

Snyder's optimism isn't a surprise. This is a man that quoted the popular Apple TV series "Ted Lasso" about an ever-believing coach after the Jazz lost Game 1 of their first round series against the Grizzlies.

"Your favorite animal is a goldfish, because it has a memory of 10 seconds," Snyder said, quoting the lovable fictional coach. "That's where we need to be, we need to be moving forward and thinking about Game 2."

This time, he's moving forward and thinking about Game 6. And to use Lasso's favorite phrase, why not believe?

After all, the Jazz played 21 games without Mike Conley and 16 without Donovan Mitchell. Yet, they still finished with the league's best record and with a top five offense and defense. And before Wednesday's loss that put them down 3-2 in the series to the Clippers, Utah hadn't had a three-game losing streak the entire season.

"I'm incredibly positive about our guys, their competitiveness, their urgency," said Snyder. "I think our execution needs to be more consistent in a number of areas, and that's the thing where our focus needs to lie."

But optimism or not, the Jazz's situation has grown quite dire: They are looking at an elimination game against a team that they've failed to even kind of stop three straight times now; and at the very best they'll have two ailing All-Star guards — and at worst, none at all.

After missing the entire series up until this point, Conley is once again questionable with a hamstring strain. This time, though, he's got some company on the injury report. After he, obviously, labored through Game 5, Mitchell is also listed as questionable with a sore right ankle.

Mitchell scored 21 points on Wednesday but was far from the same player that controlled the first two games of the series. He shot 6 of 19 and was 4 for 14 from 3-point range, the sore ankle severely limiting him — and likewise severely limiting the Jazz.

"Donovan, obviously, is playing through a lot of pain," Snyder said Thursday. "And he's doing everything he can to generate some of those opportunities for us."

But on only one ankle, everything he can hasn't been enough. Mitchell has been hurting for at least three games now. Limping and gritting through the losses as the Clippers' trapping defense converged on him. He'll likely suit up to go again Friday night, but how much can he really expect to carry the Jazz?

If you ask him, enough.

"The series is not over, we have a lot left to give, a lot of juice left to give," Mitchell said. "We just have to go out there with a level of desperation we've never played with before."

A little desperation and a little belief may go a long way.

"We know what's at stake," Snyder said. "We feel good, feel confident that we'll head down there and do everything we can do to bring the series back here."


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