by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Scott G Winterton of Deseret News
The Utah Jazz (20-23) takes on the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-15) in the homecoming for Donovan Mitchell and final meeting this season.
And with the 13th pick
Coming into the game, fans were holding polls to see what would happen in Donovan Mitchell‘s (46/5/6) return to Utah. Would he be greeted with cheers and boos? Once Mitchell made his way onto the court, he was met with an array of cheers from the crowd. Just before Cleveland’s starting lineup was announced, Utah put together a welcome-back video for Mitchell with highlights stretching his five-year career in Utah. Once the video came to a conclusion, the crowd responded with cheers that were near deafening. The love and support from the fans brought Mitchell to his feet thanking the fans with a simple gesture of waving to the crowd. After the cheers began to dissipate, it was time to lock into the game at hand.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “Welcome back, @spidadmitchell. All love 🖤 #TakeNote https://t.co/Fwtot6Z7tA” / Twitter
Determination Over Negativity
Right from the tip-off, neither team wanted the other to gain momentum. Consistently responded bucket for bucket but Cleveland leaned heavily on Mitchell as he was able to be Cleveland’s leading scorer with 12 points in the first quarter. Cleveland’s dominance peaked first behind Mitchell as Cleveland was able to reach a 22-16 lead, but this wasn’t going to fly with Utah. Utah responded with a 13-0 run led by a surgency from Rudy Gay (7 points and 2 rebounds) off the bench. It was a pleasant surprise for Utah fans as Gay has been averaging 36.7 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from the perimeter. On top of those numbers, Gay has had a negative plus/minus rating for the season (-2.29). With this unexpected performance, Utah was able to finish the quarter with a 31-24 lead.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “Walker’s loving it, we’re all loving it #TakeNote https://t.co/4bNgvGBcwZ” / Twitter
In the second quarter, both teams had a lid on the basket when shooting from the perimeter. Cleveland shot 2/11 (18.2%) and Utah shot 2/8 (25%) but Cleveland found a way to begin coming back within the paint. Shooting 9/13 (69.2%) along with 7/8 (87.5%) from the free throw line, Cleveland managed to pick away at the lead. After Jarrett Allen (1 assist) left the game due to illness, things began to open up in the paint for Utah, but Cleveland’s ability to score didn’t slow down. Later in the quarter Utah even received an injury scare as Jarred Vanderbilt (5/5/1) grabbed his elbow after making contact in the paint trying to get a rebound after a missed shot by Nickeil Alexander-Walker (13/4/3). Vanderbilt went back to the locker room on the following possession. Cleveland continued to find their own path towards the lead from the free throw line, but Utah was able to shift momentum in their favor before the end of the half. Walker Kessler (6/11/2) was put in a tough position having to force up a midrange jumper due to the shot clock winding down and made his first NBA jump shot as time expired. Though had momentum, the score was tied 55-55 going into halftime.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “🚨 Jumper Kessler beats the buzzer 🚨 #TakeNote | @WalkerKessler13 https://t.co/OTEY7dLY5G” / Twitter
D.O.N. Issue None
The absence of Allen began to sink in during the third quarter. By the midway point of the third quarter, Utah had out-rebounded Cleveland 31-24 while creating a 13-point lead off a 21-6 run. Though Kessler was able to contain the paint he got into foul trouble picking up his fourth of the game before the end of the quarter. Lauri Markkanen (25/6/1) was the focal point of the Utah offense scoring nine points for the quarter and being the focus for Cleveland’s defense. Both teams continued to drive into the paint to prove their dominance but with Utah outscoring Cleveland 33-29 in the third quarter Utah went into the final quarter leading 88-84.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “❌NAWT TODAY❌ #TakeNote | @NickeilAW https://t.co/ynpFvTk3pa” / Twitter
Though Utah managed to score 28 points in the fourth quarter, they arguably had their worst offensive quarter of the season. Utah shot 2/12 (16.7%) from the perimeter and 5/25 (20%) from the field in the fourth quarter. What saved Utah was their ability to get to the free throw line. For the game, Utah shot 30/37 (81.1%) from the line and 16/19 (84.2%) came in the final quarter. Jordan Clarkson (32/6/4) accounted for four of Utah’s five made shots along with going 5/7 (71.4%) from the free throw line. Within the final minutes, Clarkson managed to do something that has not been done since the late great Kobe Bryant in his final game in 2016. Clarkson scored 9+ unanswered points while trailing to take the lead and come away with the win in the final two minutes. After a hard-fought game between these teams Utah won by the skin on their teeth as Mitchell scored a three in the final second to make the final score 116-114.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “say it with us,,, FLAME ON 🔥 #TakeNote https://t.co/h0xYdVgq4X” / Twitter
Utah will welcome the first overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic on Friday for their first meeting of the season.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “”We just tryna win. We gon’ keep competin’ for Utah, keep puttin’ this jersey on, keep representin’.” 🎤 @JordanClarksons joins @sportsiren with the #WalkoffInterview #TakeNote | @lhmauto https://t.co/dgT8BXYyAY” / Twitter