by Daniel Olsen | Everything seemed to go right for the Jazz on Saturday afternoon in Orlando. From the tip-off the Jazz were on fire and didn’t really relinquish the lead. After the first three minutes the Jazz started to build a lead and were winning by 14 points at the end of the first quarter.
Many bench players that played valiantly against the Spurs on Friday earned some minutes and made good use of them. Georges Niang, who had struggled to find his shot for the majority of the restart, suddenly caught fire and was a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc at halftime. The Jazz again led by 14 at halftime as the Nuggets matched every shot they made. Both teams scored 34 points in the second quarter.
In the third quarter the Nuggets came back and only trailed nine. They took their first lead in the fourth quarter near the end after trailing almost the whole game. It looked bleak for the Jazz. That’s when the friendly neighborhood SPIDA went to work. He made a driving layup with one second left that sent the game to overtime.
Donovan was also Mr. Clutch in the first overtime. He hit several big shots including the go-ahead bucket on a sick crossover and pull-up jumper from the three-point line with 3.4 seconds to go. Unfortunately it was just enough time for Jokic to have a clear path to the basket and make the tying layup with .3 seconds left.
It was a rare sequence as the clock didn’t start, so the replay center had to review and determine how much time had expired. Royce O’Neale was going for a steal but made the mistake of not staying between his man and the basket. There was also no help at the rim as the Jazz defense seemed to be defending the three closely to avoid a potential game-winner from deep.
It was the Denver Show in most of the second overtime, but the Jazz did make a valiant effort. Donovan had a chance at a game winner but it was a desperation shot from half court as time expired.
This brings the question: Do the Jazz miss the Bojan clutch factor? With Mr. Clutch himself being sidelined with an injury, the Jazz couldn’t turn to Bojan to make a game-winner like he did vs the Bucks and Rockets this season. With Bojan out the Jazz know they have to turn to their leading scorer and All-Star, Donovan Mitchell. Can he deliver?
The answer is yes. It’s true that we haven’t seen him hit a shot the level of a buzzer-beater three with two defenders draped over him. Look at the shots Donovan made in this game though:
1. The lay-up to send the game to overtime
2. The go ahead jumper in the first overtime
3. 24 points from the fourth quarter to the end of the second overtime.
4. Brought the Jazz within two on the second overtime on a sweet 3 and had a chance to win it with a half court heave
Donovan’s career is still young. While he hasn’t hit the big one yet, these shots are big and he’s playing quality clutch minutes. I see him making a game winner soon for the Jazz. With Bojan out and his point guard Mike Conley missing some games due to the upcoming birth of his child, Donovan will have to carry a heavier load at times.
Bojan has the size and is a pure shooter. Donovan is a scorer that can hit the three but also makes a lot of athletic shots at the rim. He shoots a lot, but has been improving his passing ability in the restart. He is the first option at offense. Had the Jazz pulled this off Donovan would have been crowned a hero because his daggers seemed to be the turning point. Unfortunately Denver didn’t go away.
There might be a silver lining in all of this. Maybe the Jazz can avoid Houston in the first round and earn a rematch with Denver. It is possible the Jazz fall to the six seed and would do just that. The Rockets have been a terrible matchup for the Jazz in the playoffs and everyone is ready for a change. The Nuggets are a Division rival that would be fun for the Jazz to face in the Playoffs.
I would expect the series to go at least six (maybe seven) games. While Denver swept the regular season series, all the games have been close. Let’s not forget that Portland beat the Nuggets last year in a competitive seven game series. The Jazz are on that same level but it will take four quarters of their best basketball for every game to win a series vs that team from the Mile High City.
It is Donovan Mitchell’s time to shine. Rudy can keep doing the dirty work on defense and hopefully he won’t foul out like he did in this long double overtime game. Again, we haven’t seen the end of the Donovan clutch debate; every great player goes through this. He wants to take the shot. Now he just has to make the shot.
Featured image via Salt Lake Tribune.