Before the postseason started, Utah was positively optimistic when thinking about the road ahead.
Although the regular season hadn't gone according to plan, some of what went wrong were out of their control — such as injuries and health and safety protocols. But the other issues were self-inflicted, which caused problems throughout the regular season that saw the Jazz finish lower in the standings than expected.
Rather than looking at those issues as a negative, Utah took a unique view of the situation. They chose to look at those struggles as growing pains, lessons learned that not only made this team tougher mentally and physically, but lessons that would showcase their ability to fight through adversity.
"When we faced adversity in the playoffs, it was kind of like we weren't really prepared for that (last year)," Rudy Gobert said. "This year, I feel like we're different. I feel like we are more mature. … I think all those challenges that we faced really made us better and prepared us better for what's coming."
Now the Jazz find themselves facing their most adversity of the season in the highest of stakes — win or go home. With their season on the brink, Utah hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, game six of their first round matchup. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. MST on TNT.
Interestingly enough, there is no doubting their individual talent when it comes to the Jazz.
Donovan Mitchell is a budding superstar. Gobert is a three-time defensive player of the year. Jordan Clarkson is the reigning sixth man of the year.
Bojan Bogdanovic is a high-scoring forward. Mike Conley was an all-star last season. Royce O'Neale is among the top defensive wings in the league.
And the list goes on and on…
Over the past couple of seasons, they've emerged as one of the elite shooting teams in the league. With many weapons on offense, the Jazz had the league's highest-rated offense the past two seasons as they've proven capable of shooting themselves to victory nearly every night.
But something has happened over the course of their first round series with the Mavericks, culminating in a tough showing Monday night in game five. In one of their worst shooting performances in team history, the Jazz struggled from the floor despite generating many open looks.
"We didn't make shots," Mitchell said on Wednesday. "At the end of the day, we got to make some shots. … As a group, that's the takeaway from the game."
After two days of practice and film sessions, plus a shoot around, to identify parts where the Jazz can establish a better rhythm in games, there's still a lot of confidence within this group.
When speaking with media on Thursday, Conley alluded to believing that it all starts with ball movement. If the Jazz can continue to play for another and find the open man, all it takes is for one shot to go through to open up the floodgates.
"Pass up a good shot for a great shot. … That's what we got to do," he said.
"I don't want to go home. … I don't think any of us want to go home," Mitchell added. "Knowing the character in the locker room, all we can do is compete with all we got. We are going to go out there and fight."