Bojan was hobbling. OKC was ahead. Mike Conley couldn’t buy a bucket even if it was at the dollar store. Still, the Jazz found a way to win thanks to their stingy-as-always defense and one man: Donovan Mitchell.
Donovan has been sensational since his rookie year but it didn’t come without struggles. He had a bit of a “sophomore slump” last year in his second rodeo as defenses focused on him and made the other guys beat them.
Donovan scored almost one-third of his team’s points for the night as he had 32 points. The normal gunslinger also did so on an efficient shooting night. He made just under 64% of his field goals and was 3 of 4 from the charity stripe. He was just 33 percent on three point shots but only had three attempts. Donovan gets a good grade on this one for hitting high percentage shots.
On a night where it was announced that Salt Lake City had been accepted to host the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, one can’t help but think there will be another pair of Jazz co-MVPs when the NBA comes to town. It will have been 30 years since Stockton and Malone teamed up to beat MJ and the rest of the Eastern Conference in a rare overtime All-Star Game.
Donovan’s 32 points matched Karl Malone’s jersey number. He is also paying homage to the Mailman by releasing a new purple mountains color way of his D.O.N Issue 1 basketball shoes. Although now listed at just over 6 foot 1, Donovan’s game is bigger than his stature. He was making plenty of high flying dunks and jumped for 12 boards. He and his reigning Defensive Player of the Year teammate, Rudy Gobert, combined for half of the team’s rebound total. It’s not just the baskets that go in that make the difference. Even though most of the Jazz players struggled offensively, they made enough hustle plays to win.
It’s also worth noting that Donovan was a clutch scorer. In the fourth quarter alone he had 14 points. It’s not every day you score almost half your point total down the stretch with the game on the line. Donovan is mostly a clutch player although he has yet to hit a buzzer beater in his career. He has made a few memorable shots in the final minute though. Tonight he had six points in the final minute. He had a tip shot, a 20 foot jump shot and two free throws to help keep the game out of reach from Oklahoma City.
The Thunder didn’t go down without a fight. Chris Paul is still good enough to create space and knock down the open three. The rest of the young team played hard but 95 points wasn’t enough to beat these Jazz. On a bad night the Jazz still put 100 points on the scoreboard. How good can they be once their shots start falling. We will soon find out. It’s time to take note!