Mitchell Follows All-Star Selection With Worst Game Of Season

Jan 31, 2020, 12:00 AM | Updated: 12:15 am

DENVER, Colorado – After a stretch that saw the Utah Jazz win 19-21, the team has dropped three straight games including a loss to their divisional foe the Denver Nuggets. Despite getting named an All-Star, Donovan Mitchell had possibly the worst game of his career. 

The Story

On what should have been a storybook night for Donovan Mitchell, the third-year guard named an All-Star for the first time in his career earlier in the night had arguably the worst game of his young career in front of a national audience on TNT. 

Mitchell missed his first nine shots of the night, committed four turnovers, and the Jazz were outscored by nine while he was on the floor en route to a six-point loss to their Northwest Division rival. 

Perhaps most surprising was that Mitchell’s struggles came against the Nuggets second unit backcourt, as starters Jamal Murray (ankle) and Garry Harris (personal reasons) missed the game. 

Despite seven assists, Mitchell struggled to figure out the Nuggets collapsing defense, often finding himself jumping towards the rim, changing his decision in mid-air and turning the ball over or forcing up a bad shot. When Mitchell did get open looks, his jump shot simply off the mark, missing all five of his three-point attempts. 

This type of performance has been rare for Mitchell this season, having scored in double digits in all but one game before facing Denver, a Jazz win against the Charlotte Hornets when Mitchell was playing sick. The guard had four points on 2-9 shooting in that outing. 

Historically, Mitchell has had his biggest offensive struggles against stronger, longer defenders which appeared to be the case again against Denver. 

The Nuggets used 6’7, 215 lbs Torrey Craig as the primary defender against Mitchell, and the Jazz guard was never able to get easy penetration for finishes ahead of the Denver defense. 

Mitchell’s lone made field-goal came with 4:05 left in the game and the Jazz trailing by 96-83. Bizarrely, Mitchell’s only basket appeared to be one of his toughest shots of the night, a high-arching floater over the much larger Jerami Grant. 

The Lousiville product’s four points are his lowest point total since scoring just three points on 1-20 shooting against the Portland Trailblazers on December 21, 2018. 

The Game

After back to back games that saw the Jazz usually stout defense abandon them against the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, it was the team’s offense that no-showed for stretches against Nuggets. 

The Jazz were slow out of the gate scoring just 13 points in the first 9:40 of the first quarter in large part due to a slew of turnovers to open the game. The Jazz had seven giveaways in the stretch allowing the Nuggets to build a four-point lead. 

A barrage of three-point shots from Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson jumpstarted the Jazz offense, and the team was able to build an 11 point lead on the backs of the bench unit with 6:40 left in the first half. 

Bogdanovic finished the night with 18 points, with all of his baskets coming behind the three-point line. The Croatian connected on 6-10 from beyond the arc but failed to score in the fourth quarter for the Jazz. 

Despite a terrific first half from the Jazz reserves, the bench was partially responsible for one of the worst stretches of basketball from the team all season. After a first-half stint that saw the Jazz +10 with Clarkson, +13 from Emmanuel Mudiay and +13 from Georges Niang, the team found themselves on the wrong side of a 27-1 run from the Denver Nuggets after holding a nine-point lead with 4:13 left in the third quarter. 

Over the next 7:17 of the game, the Jazz would go 0-12 from the floor, scoring just one point from the free-throw line while the Nuggets shot 7-14, including 5-9 from three to build a 17 point lead. 

During the stretch, the Jazz were -26 with Clarkson, -21 with Niang and -18 with Mudiay on the floor. 

Clarkson would display his scoring prowess to get the Jazz back into the game, scoring 24 fourth-quarter points to trim the lead, but ultimately the team came up short thanks to an impressive offensive display from the Nuggets Nikola Jokic. 

Clarkson would finish with a season-high 37 on 13-22 from the floor and 7-12 from three. 

Jokic scored 28 points for the Nuggets, including 13 in the fourth quarter. 

The Big Picture

While Mitchell struggled in his first game after being named an All-Star, Rudy Gobert shined against the team that drafted him. The Jazz center finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks while missing just one of his 10 shot attempts.

Mike Conley didn’t play on the second night of a back to back, which may reveal the distance the guard still has to go before returning to the starting lineup for the Jazz. The team can choose to rest Conley strategically as he rehabs from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss 19 games earlier this season. 

While Conley’s play wasn’t missed in the first half as Mudiay looked comfortable against running the Jazz second unit, the team could have used the calming presence of the 13-year veteran during the 27-1 from the Nuggets. 

Clarkson’s 37 points are the most for a Jazz player off the bench since Thurl Bailey scored 38 for the Jazz on March 24, 1988. Clarkson’s point total is the most support in a game that saw Mitchell suit up since he was drafted by the Jazz in 2017. 

With three straight losses, the Jazz fell to 32-16, and are a full game behind the Nuggets who move up the second seed in the West. The Jazz are a game back of the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers and now sit in the fourth seed. 

The Jazz close their road trip Saturday against the Portland Trailblazers who will face the Los Angeles Lakers in LA Friday night in what is sure to be an emotional game. The Lakers have not played since the death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday.

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