Oklahoma City • They say in the playoffs there’s less margin for error. There’s also less margin for cruel twists of fate.
That’s why the Jazz-Thunder series may rest on just one toe.
It’s the toe Donovan Mitchell stubbed in the second half of Game 1, an injury which he came back from in the game, but has since been limited in practices at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mitchell said Wednesday morning that “I don’t think I’ve ever been to the training room as much as I have the past two days.”
He’s officially questionable for Game 2, and the decision to play (or not play) will likely be made in pregame warm-ups.
“If I’m limping or whatever, if I’m out there kinda trying to adjust and not playing right like my normal self, that will dictate it,” he said. “That was really first my first time going at it since the game. Just felt both, so I’m waiting to see what I feel right before the game, so we’ll go from there.”
Mitchell said he can’t remember playing with the kind of pain he’s felt the last two days, and that it sometimes inhabits the back of his mind. But grading it, he also described it as “not too bad.”
So much depends on the decision: Mitchell is the leading scorer for the Jazz, and had the clear standout night from Game 1 with 27 points and 10 rebounds despite his injury. While the entire team is making adjustments to try to even the series, it’s clear that Mitchell will be an engine for the offense. Without him, one of Utah’s most dangerous threats is off the floor.
Shootaround was non-contact, so Mitchell fully participated. After the session was open to the media, he worked with assistant coach Johnnie Bryant on making cuts at various points on the floor.
General manager Dennis Lindsey and much of the front office staff were watching with a careful eye. The training staff is watching as well.
Cameras caught Mitchell on Sunday arguing with a trainer and then coach Quin Snyder to go back in the game. On one hand, that demonstrates Mitchell’s desire to compete in the playoffs, no matter what. On the other, the Jazz don’t want to make the final decision for Game 2 on pure emotion — they’ll be smart about it, and so will Mitchell.
“It wasn’t revealing for me about Donovan, because I kind of know that’s who he is: He’s a competitor and he’s gonna want to play,” Snyder said. “Certainly players who want to play are going to play through some discomfort, and they’ve got to make sure they don’t play through injury and hurt themselves. Obviously he won’t do that and put himself at risk, but I know he wants to play, so he’ll play through that pain and discomfort.”
1. When Quin Snyder first assembled the Jazz coaching staff, it was a group of relative strangers who mostly had never worked together before. Now Utah boasts one of the most highly regarded, highly cohesive coaching groups in the NBA with several assistants who could be head coaches soon. Aaron Falk explored their journey and retold some key moments with great detail and care. [Trib]
2. While Oklahomans are clearly backing the Thunder this week, there’s a few that can’t also help but root for Ekpe Udoh. The native of Edmond, Okla., isn’t just an accomplished alum of a local high school — he’s made it his mission to give back to the place he grew up. [Trib]
3. Royce O’Neale has been a defender ever since the first time he stepped onto a court. After an uneven Game 1 guarding Paul George, O’Neale is looking to bolster his reputation as a one-on-one defender. And as Tony Jones writes, the Jazz need him to. [Trib]
4. Do you want to know what a film session with Donovan Mitchell is like? Tim MacMahon sat in on one with Quin Snyder and Johnnie Bryant and got a taste for what the Jazz coaching staff wants their star rookie to learn. [ESPN]
5. This week was a popular time to write about Jazz coaches: Kent Babb took a closer look at Quin Snyder, but through the lens of his rough college tenure at Missouri, and how he recovered to get where he is now. [WaPo]
It was just Aaron and I this past week, previewing the Thunder series including match-ups we thought to be relevant and what has to happen for the Jazz to win. We also tackle end-of-season award races and Tony’s battle with Oklahoma City about its nightlife. You can check out the Weekly Run podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
• When the entire world didn’t believe that the Jazz would turn things around in January, Rudy Gobert kept the faith. [Trib]
• Aaron also had a valuable look into Ricky Rubio, who formed a bond of trust with Snyder and the coaching staff after he arrived in Salt Lake City. [Trib]
• Kurt Kragthorpe took a look at Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City, two markets that are known for their “slow-motion” pace of life and have NBA teams that mean so much to their respective states. [Trib]
• The Tony mailbag this week includes people wondering about Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Alec Burks and generally getting a little nervous about losing Game 1. [Trib]
• Eric Woodyard looked at Derrick Favor’s involvement with Ronald McDonald House Charities, where he has become a huge benefactor. [DesNews]
• Also from Eric — he interviewed former Thunder forward Thabo Sefolosha to examine his role on the team and his memories of Oklahoma City. [DesNews]
• Andy Larsen reviewed the four regular season meetings between the Jazz and the Thunder. He condensed the scouting report down to four Thunder plays the Jazz absolutely need to stop. [KSL.com]
• Zach Harper of FanRag Sports is also writing some recaps for 1280 The Zone. He looked at what might be Quin Snyder’s adjustments in Game 2. 
• I’ve become fond of my Cleaning The Glass subscription lately: A recent article focuses on film study from Game 1 of Jazz-Thunder. [CTG]
On Tuesday afternoon, Rudy Gobert was asked if there were specific numbers in points, rebounds or blocks that he was aiming for against the Thunder. His answer was measured and insightful to his approach to the game:
“Basketball is not that easy. We just got to get the best shots possible. We’ve got to use our strengths, obviously, as well as get open shots. … If we get open threes, as long as we’re scoring I don’t care. If they’re sucking in the paint and we get threes, you know, they’re probably going to say ‘Rudy scored zero points,’ but we got good shots at the end of the day. That’s how you win games.”
If you haven’t seen the full schedule for Round 1, here it is (all times Mountain):
• Game 2: Wed., April 18, 6 p.m. in OKC
• Game 3: Sat., April 21, 8 p.m. in SLC
• Game 4: Mon., April 23, 8:30 p.m. in SLC
• Game 5, if necessary: Wed., April 25 in OKC
• Game 6, if necessary: Fri., April 27 in SLC
• Game 7, if necessary: Sun., April 29 in OKC
If the Jazz get at least one of those, we’ll be back with another newsletter next week. The stakes could not be higher.