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Jazz Should Use Mitchell As Backup Point Guard During Rubio Absense

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) passes the ball against Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) and Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (1) at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz found themselves in a pickle.

With recent injuries to Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum, the Jazz have been pressed to find someone that can initiate the offense and stretch opposing defenses when backup Raul Neto exits the game.

Neto is serviceable, netting 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 31 minutes against the Orlando Magic, but what about the other 17 minutes when Neto didn’t play?

Enter Donovan Mitchell.

Spida scored 16 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter against the Magic. Perhaps more importantly, he dished out 3 big assists in the second half of the game, when the Jazz devoured a 17-point halftime deficit.

“My biggest thing is not to change the mindset,” Mitchell said after the win. “Just being aggressive and making the right reads. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

On the most recent Jazz Notes podcast, host Cleon Wall couldn’t help but compliment Mitchell on his play.

“This is the Donovan Mitchell I think I was waiting to see, and a lot of the fans were waiting to see this season,” Wall said. “Efficient, smart and aggressive.”

Mitchell hasn’t been without his skeptics, at least when it comes to his ability to play point guard consistently. KSL.com beat writer Ryan Miller joined Wall on the latest Jazz Notes podcast, and according to him, playing Mitchell at point is too much for the second-year guard.

“Hopefully playing against a couple weaker teams, per se, will help the Jazz get through this injury-riddled run, but Donovan does struggle at point guard. When they ask him to do that, I think it’s asking him to be not really who he is,” Miller said. “That hurts the Jazz as a whole.”

It wasn’t that Neto didn’t produce. Although he did shoot just 36 percent and went 0-5 from the three-point line, the Jazz outscored Orlando by 22 points when he was on the floor. He made his impact.

Utah took their first lead of the game on two Neto layups, making the score 78-75, capping a comeback from a 21-point deficit.

Neto, however, can’t be expected to do all the heavy lifting.

The Jazz are back in action against the Los Angeles Lakers, who will visit Salt Lake City Friday without LeBron James. The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.

Download or steam the latest episode of the Jazz Notes podcast here.