Donovan Mitchell will miss the final three games of the regular season for the Utah Jazz as he continues to receive treatment for the sprained ankle that has kept him out since April 16, the team announced on Tuesday. Fortunately for Utah, they'll have a bit of a break between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs. Their final game will be on Sunday, but thanks to the play-in round, their postseason will not begin until Saturday, May 22 at the earliest.
However, Mitchell's absence still puts them in a precarious position as far as the play-in round is concerned. No, the Jazz will not be playing in it, but the Los Angeles Lakers will be. Right now, the Jazz lead the Phoenix Suns by only a single game for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. If all current seeding held, the Jazz would face the No. 8 seed in the first round, but if they fall to No. 2, they would face the No. 7 seed, which is currently the Lakers. The play-in round could jumble seeding, and there is no scenario short of the Lakers jumping back up to No. 6 in which Utah is safe from the defending champions entirely, but remaining at No. 1 gives them their best chance at doing so. The Lakers will be heavy favorites in their first play-in game, provided they stay at No. 7, whereas the other play-in teams would be relatively easy matchups for Utah.
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Mitchell isn't the only star Jazz guard that is currently sidelined. Mike Conley has been out with a hamstring injury since April 28. Both are expected to make it back in time for the postseason, but health is paramount for a Jazz team that lacks the superstar talent that other contenders have. They need to be at full strength if they plan to topple the best of the Western Conference.
The Jazz play the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday in what should be their most difficult game left on the schedule. If they can get through that game unscathed, their two final games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings are extremely winnable. However, a single loss would put the Suns in a position to knock them off of the top seed, so these last few games without Mitchell will be extremely precarious.