SUMMARY: A raucous party on LeBron James’ birthday was crashed by Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz.
- A possession-for-possession game in the final five minutes against LeBron James seems like an impossible task, but tonight the Jazz showed great resilience and held off LeBron and the Cavaliers to win 104-101.
- The Cavaliers blitzed the Jazz in the first quarter, 32-22. In the second, both coaches used the mandatory timeout by the 8:20 mark and with the extended play without a lengthy timeout, the Jazz wore out the Cavaliers and cut the deficit to five points by halftime.
- In the third quarter, the Jazz exploded for a 19-3 start and ran out to a 15-point lead. The Jazz were spurred on by Ricky Rubio who was fantastic all night. The Jazz lost the lead late in the third with a bunch of one-on-one play.
- The Jazz clung to an 8-point lead when LeBron James re-entered in the final quarter, 83-75. In no time, that was down to a single point at 91-90 with 3:30 left. The Jazz hadn’t won a game all year decided by five points or less. Only the Boston Celtics have won more games that were within five points with five minutes to play and Cleveland is the number one offense in the clutch.
- With 3:25 to go, Donovan Mitchell scored on a driving lay-up. Wade answered and then Mitchell did it again as he came off a pick and the Cavaliers doubled him. He threw a 90 mile an hour fastball to Favors who made a touch catch and finished plus the foul. The Cavaliers then got three chances on the next possession and got it back down to two points on Kevin Love free throws.
- At this point, Quin Snyder had turned the game over to Donovan. Ricky Rubio — who had been marvelous all night — was not on the floor. The Jazz were closing with Mitchell, Hood, Ingles, Sefolosha and Favors.
- Mitchell split the double team on the pick-and-roll, got fouled and then — as though it was no big deal — nailed both free throws. Three straight possessions and Mitchell’s play had led to three straight baskets in the clutch and the Jazz led by four. Cleveland answered with a 3 from Kevin Love and the lead was back down to one point.
- Mitchell then missed a 3. Jeff Green switched on him and Donovan didn’t seem sure how to attack so he tried a 3 and it was short. The Jazz got the stop on a Wade 3 and this is when Mitchell shook the NBA world.
- With :40 seconds left and up 1, Donovan Mitchell brought the ball up the floor and was marked by JR Smith. Rather than getting a pick from the pick-and-roll, Mitchell exploded by Smith to the rim and was able to finish in traffic to put the Jazz up by three. This was so special. Donovan is remarkable.
- Now it was time for the defensive stop of the night. LeBron James tried to get Thabo Sefolosha switched off of him but couldn’t and so he tried to take Thabo down the lane one-on-one. Thabo stayed right with LeBron and didn’t allow him any space and he wasn’t able to get up, the shot fell short and Thabo grabbed the rebound.
- Sefolosha and Favors were prefect from the line and the Jazz defeated the Cavaliers.
- The Jazz finish a brutal month at 5-10 which was the standard of success. I am not sure many people thought the Jazz could find five wins in this schedule, but they were able to get it done. Utah had wins this month over Washington, New Orleans, Boston, San Antonio and Cleveland.
- Derrick Favors was terrific tonight. The Cavaliers put a lot of pressure on Mitchell coming off the pick-and-roll and it forced Derrick to make a lot of plays in the middle of the floor. Derrick is one of the top five finishers around the rim and it showed tonight with his amazing hands on numerous tough catches.
- Donovan Mitchell’s December for a rookie was historical. The kid is really amazing.
Michael Jordan 25.2 ‘84
David Robinson 24.0 ‘89
LeBron James 23.3 ‘03
Donovan Mitchell 23.1 ’17
Blake Griffin 23.0 ‘10
Ron Harper 22.9 ‘86
Allen Iverson 22.6 ‘96