Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell writhed in pain at the Vivint Arena court with 12 seconds left in Thursday’s game 2 against the LA Clippers and stretched toward his right ankle, which he sprained several weeks ago.
Mitchell rose after several seconds, shooting his free throws and ending the 117-111 victory, giving the top-seeded Jazz a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series. He limped off the floor after the win, but Mitchell insisted his health is no concern as the series heads to Los Angeles.
“I was hit and it hurt, but I’m fine now,” Mitchell said after his 37-point performance. “I went in here. If you want me to jump for you, I can. I̵
Mitchell, who was a late scraper for Utah’s opening season after the season due to ankle sprain that ruled him out for the last 16 games of the regular season, has so far been one of the most dominant forces in the playoffs.
The Jazz are 6-0 with Mitchell in the starting lineup this post-season, and he has an average of 32.7 points per game. Fight and place him in a historic elite company. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the only players with higher scoring averages while winning their first six games in a record season are Kobe Bryant in 2008 (34.3) and LeBron James in 2017 (34.2).
Mitchell has been particularly productive against the Clippers, averaging 41.0 points on 52.5% shooting from the floor, while the Jazz opened the series with two home wins despite the absence of All-Star guard Mike Conley Jr. (hoarding).
“He’s just stepping up in a big way,” said Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, the sixth man of the year to have 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting in Game 2. “He’s been a real superstar, MVP-caliber. player, A completely NBA guy. That’s his job, and that’s what he does. “
After scoring 32 of his 45 points in the second half of Game 1, the Mitchell Clippers burned just after the opening tip on Thursday. He had 10 points in the first 3 minutes, 14 seconds as the Jazz made the Clippers pay to return to their big starting lineup by attacking center Ivica Zubac in pick-and-roll. Mitchell finished the half with 27 points.
After Utah’s lead ballooned to 21 points in the third quarter, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue found a way to disrupt Mitchell’s rhythm by going to a zone defense that cooled the Jazz and allowed LA to get back in the game.
“I think we got a little stagnant in that and we looked at Donovan a little bit to make a game every time,” said Jazz striker Joe Ingles, who had 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Mitchell played a supportive role as the Jazz closed out the Clippers, who gathered to take the lead after Reggie Jackson hit back-to-back 3s in the middle of the fourth quarter. Ingles stared down the stretch and drove after a scoop shot, which he knocked high out of the glass to tie it up in the next possession and then handed out two assists and hit dagger 3 during the 9-0 victory seal.
“I do not feel like I have to go out there and do everything,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s an honor for my teammates, an honor for the guys we have on this team. They can go out there and make games … I do not want to go up there, go it up, do everything.There are times when I have to do it.It’s just part of my job, but for me it’s nice to have a group of guys who trust you and you trust.You just go out there and play and have fun. “