On the Utah Jazz’s last game before the holiday, The Jazz’s rookie continued his role as human highlight against Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Though the Jazz dropped the game 103-89, Mitchell had a game high 29 points on 12-16 shooting in his first game back after missing two games with a sore great toe. The whole thing culminated in a rare one-on-one chat between he and the reigning MVP.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 24, 2017
When asked if he was getting used to being pulled aside by the vets on the opposing team, Mitchell said chatting with Brodie took him by surprise.
“Not that one. Westbrook, you know, he doesn’t really talk to anybody. So that definitely took me for a spin.”
“It’s a blessing and an honor for that to happen but in the same light, I want to beat those guys,” Mitchell added. “It’s cool to have them to talk to after the game and I respect them to the highest level, but I want to win.”
The Jazz lost the series against the Thunder three games to one and won’t play them again during the regular season.
“We went 1-3 against them this year, and next year we’ll look to go 4-0,” Mitchell said. “After the game we can talk, but during the game it’s still staying locked in. That’s what I’ve got to keep working on.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 24, 2017
Head coach Quin Snyder — who repeatedly said he was disappointed in his team’s execution after the game — didn’t really want to discuss Mitchell’s night in light of the team’s performance.
“It’s hard to look at an individual player on a night like tonight when our team’s not executing,” he said.
The Jazz shot poorly from distance, going 6-26 for 23%. They also gave up 15 offensive rebounds and allowed the Thunder to take 16 more shots.
“We weren’t determined enough on the glass, we weren’t determined enough offensively,” Snyder said.
The Jazz turned the ball over 12 times, often when the long, athletic Thunder were able to jump the passing lanes.
“We were pleased with the looks, I think we had too many live ball turnovers,” shooting guard Rodney Hood said after the game.
“I think defense is their calling card, keeping them in games and allowing them to play freely offensively,” he added.
Rodney had a tough night with his first field goal make coming off a 3-pointer in the third quarter. He finished the game with 9 points, one assist and one rebound in 30 minutes.
Paul George had a monster game with 26 points and four 3-point makes in 37 minutes. He also had six steals and two blocked shots.
Westbrook had a ho- (ho ho? Like, for the holidays?) hum triple-double: 27-10-10.
Neither spoke to the media after the game.
Carmelo Anthony did, however, and said the team put pride in their defense Saturday night.
“I thought we took the challenge tonight,” he said. “We wanted to come out and set the tone early. Defensively, we did that. Once we set the tone early we had the momentum going throughout the entire game.”
The Jazz’s largest lead of the night was one point in the first quarter, with only two lead changes.
And add Anthony to the list of guys who are taking notice of Donovan Mitchell’s rookie efforts. Though he wouldn’t say what he told young Don, he said the fans should be excited.
“I think the Utah organization and the fans out here have something special that they can look forward to right now and in the future. I think he would be a great representation of the Utah Jazz and he continues to get better and better. I think you guys are watching something here that can be very special.”
Carmelo Anthony on Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell: “You guys are watching something here that could be very special.” pic.twitter.com/HMp0ZLeWcz
— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) December 24, 2017
Rodney Hood has a similar perspective of his teammate and likes that Donovan has been getting some high profile attention.
“It’s well deserved,” Rodney said. “He’s — in my book — the rookie of the year. He’s been playing… [hard] the whole year on both ends and he deserves all the respect he’s getting.”
With Saturday’s loss, the Jazz fall to 15-19 on the season with their next game coming against the Nuggets in Denver the night after Christmas. The Nuggets defeated The Golden State Warriors in Oakland tonight.