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Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz
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Historic 57 Point Game From Mitchell Not Enough Against Nuggets

Donovan Mitchell handles the ball for the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell made NBA history in the team’s game one loss to the Denver Nuggets. Mitchell scored 57 points, the third-most in league postseason history, but the Jazz fell 135-125.

Mitchell’s 57 points were a career-high and broke Karl Malone’s 50 point Jazz playoff scoring record set in 2000. The point total was the second-highest in a playoff loss, only Michael Jordan’s legendary 63 point performance against the Boston Celtics in 1986.

The 57 point performance from Mitchell pushed the game into overtime, but the Jazz ran out of gas late. Without starters Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz were missing 70 minutes of basketball from two of their high-level starters. As a result, the Jazz opened the overtime with a missed Mitchell jump shot and four turnovers. The Nuggets built a 123-115 lead to begin overtime and effectively ended the game.

Mitchell Scores 57 Vs. Murray’s 36

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray scored 20 points in the final 8:13 of the game, connecting on 8-10 shots from the floor. From the 3:13 mark to the one minute mark left in regulation, Murray scored or assisted on 15 straight Nuggets points.

The guard finished with 36 points on 13-20 shooting from the floor and 6-9 from three, while adding nine assist and five rebounds.

“They did some really good things, particularly Jamal Murray down the stretch,” Snyder said. “He made big shots as well he had two guys that are playing on a really high level at that point in the game.”

Mitchell meanwhile didn’t get his 57 point scoring push started until the second quarter. The All-Star guard had just two points on 1-5 shooting during his nine-minute first quarter stint. Mitchell followed his slow start with 17 second quarter points, 10 third quarter points, and a staggering 22 points in the fourth quarter on 6-7 shooting, including 2-3 from the three-point line and 8-8 from the free-throw line.

The guard managed six points in overtime, and was one of only two Jazz players (Jordan Clarkson) to score in the extra period.

“It’s tough to lose the first game,” Mitchell said after his historic performance. “But now we see what their approaches is and obviously they see ours, but there are a lot of things that we can control.”

Nuggets Three-Point Shooting

The Denver Nuggets won the game largely on Murray’s heroics and terrific three-point shooting. Denver finished with a franchise playoff-best 22 made threes on 41 attempts.

At halftime, the Nuggets had 11 made threes on 23 attempts, and finished the Jazz off going a perfect 4-4 in overtime. Murray led the Nuggets with six made threes, followed by Nikola Jokic’s four makes. Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. who each had three made three-pointers.

“They made shots,” Snyder said. “Put it that way, they made a lot of threes.”

The Nuggets 22 made threes was the most by any Jazz opponent this season. The previous high was 20 by the Houston Rockets on February 22. The 22 makes matches the Nuggets season-high in a January 31 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Jazz meanwhile connected on 16-47 three-point attempts. The overall attempts were a promising number from the team that has to account for the 34 point per game regular season average missing from Bogdanovic and Conley.

The majority of the Jazz damage was done by Mitchell and Ingles who combined for 11 of the team’s 16 makes. No other player had more than one made three-pointer. Reserves Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang combined to shoot just 3-13 from the three-point line for 23 percent, mirroring their early struggles in the Orlando bubble.

Jazz Start Juwan Morgan

Without Conley, the Jazz were forced to start Juwan Morgan at forward alongside Rudy Gobert. The rookie made the most of his first NBA start, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring three points in 25 minutes.

The Jazz are severely undersized without Bogdanovic and had to rely on Morgan despite his lack of experience at the NBA level. Morgan, Royce O’Neale, and Rudy Gobert each grabbed seven rebounds for the Jazz who outrebounded Denver 52-41.

“I thought he was very active and aggressive,” Snyder said of Morgan’s contribution. “[He was] committed to the defensive glass. So, a lot of good things from Juwan tonight.”

Despite outrebounding Denver 16-8 on the offensive glass, the Jazz managed just four more second-chance points than the Nuggets.

Morgan looked comfortable on the floor playing mostly mistake-free basketball. The rookie shot 1-5 from the floor including 1-4 from three.

“My main focus was the same thing anytime I step on the floor,” Morgan said. “Hustle hard, play defense, get offensive boards, block out. All the little things, and then make life easier for all the guys they have here to score.”

Most impressive was the work Morgan did against former Jazzman Paul Millsap. The four-time All-Star scored just eight points on 3-10 shooting. Millsap grabbed just three rebounds, recorded zero assists, and had a team-worst -3  plus-minus on the floor.

Morgan led the Jazz in plus-minus at +17.

Jazz Strategy

The Jazz had a clear strategy against the Nuggets — attack Michael Porter Jr. The has been a breakout star in Orlando, being named to the All-Seeding game Second Team. However, the Jazz had different plans for the sharpshooting forward.

Porter became the focus of the Jazz offensive anytime he was on the floor. In just his first year, the Jazz abused the young star’s lack of lateral mobility in their attacks towards the hoop.

As a result of the effort the Jazz made Porter put in on the defensive end, the forward, who averaged 22 points per game in the Orlando bubble was held to just 13 points on 5-13 shooting.

O’Neale drew the tough defensive assignment and did an admirable job. However, the Jazz forward was held to just three points on 1-6 shooting, picked up five personal fouls, and was a game-worst -21.

The Jazz and Nuggets will face off in game two at 4:00 PM MT on Wednesday. The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT and locally on AT&T SportsNet.

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