Donovan Mitchell wasn’t perfect in Jazz’s Game 3 win, but he showed up at the perfect time
Donovan Mitchell did not have a good game on Saturday night. That’s not someone playing armchair quarterback — that’s straight from the man himself.
After the Jazz’s 121-111 victory over the Grizzlies in Game 3 of their first-round series, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt asked Mitchell about regaining his previous level of conditioning following a lengthy recovery from an ankle injury, which forced him to sit out Utah’s playoff opener. Van Pelt noted that the All-Star guard had played well despite the layoff, but Mitchell disagreed.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t play well,” Mitchell said. “I was there in moments, but I think there were times I missed my teammates on a few things, and there’s things I can definitely do better.”
Sure, Mitchell could have been a little bit sharper and a little bit more efficient (29 points on 9-of-23 shooting), but those moments he referenced were pretty damn important.
Utah kept Memphis at arm’s length throughout the first three quarters. Then the persistent Grizzlies rattled off an 8-0 run to start the final frame and stormed all the way back to take a 109-107 lead with just over four minutes to go. From that point forward, though, Mitchell took over.
The 24-year-old scored 10 of the Jazz’s last 14 points in that four-minute stretch as the Grizzlies went cold, missing their last nine field goal attempts. Mitchell drove to the basket for an and-one finish, hit a pull-up 3-pointer and, perhaps most importantly, drew a sixth foul on Dillon Brooks with two minutes to go, taking out one of Memphis’ most important players on both ends of the floor.
“He’s such a competitor, and he’s thinking about winning,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said of Mitchell (via The Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden). “When you have a guy that believes in himself that much, believes in his teammates, has that competitive fire, he’s going to make things happen.”
Much like they have all season long, the Jazz won Game 3 and took a 2-1 series lead as a team. All five starters hit double-figure scoring. The 3-pointers were flying. Rudy Gobert made his presence felt in the paint. Mike Conley, who gave so many terrific years to the Grizzlies, poured in 27 points and dished out eight assists in front of the FedEx Forum crowd. (Mitchell said Conley was “big time” in the win.)
But in the playoffs, particularly in crunch time, key possessions often come down to offensive creators throwing out the playbook, the ball movement, the search for a perfect shot. On those possessions, “the guy” just needs to figure out how to get a bucket.
Mitchell knows he can be better — he likely will be better as his minutes rise — but one thing won’t change: He will still be “the guy” in those moments. And if he continues to perform like he did Saturday, the Jazz will be feeling good about their chances of making a deep run.
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