Mitchell, Gobert Save Jazz Late Vs. Thunder

Nov 24, 2021, 9:33 PM | Updated: 10:07 pm
Donovan Mitchell - Rudy Gobert - Utah Jazz - Phoenix Suns...
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz reacts during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 28, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Jazz defeated the Suns 96-95. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz needed their stars to come up big late in their 110-104 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Donovan Mitchell scored just 13 points but shined brightest when the Jazz needed him after struggling early in the game.

Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert had a 15 point, 17 rebound double-double and held the Thunder to just three points over the final 2:30 of the game to secure the victory.

Mitchell Atones For Memphis Sins

Mitchell was coming off his worst game of the season in the team’s loss to Memphis on Monday after going 5-20 from the floor for 18 points, including a scoreless 0-5 fourth quarter.

That negative momentum, teamed with the excellent defense from noted Jazz-killer Lu Dort seemed to slow him early against the Thunder.

Mitchell had just seven points on 3-11 shooting over the first three quarters of the game and looked tentative on offense and sluggish on defense as Dort bullied him on both ends of the floor.

However, Mitchell flipped the script from Monday’s performance when late in the fourth quarter he took over the game.

With the Jazz leading the Thunder 103-101 and once again in danger of losing a game late to an inferior opponent, Mitchell missed a layup, but grabbed his own rebound and put it back in to extend the Jazz lead to four.

After a Gobert drew an offensive foul on Dort, Mitchell isolated in the half-court and pulled up for a tough 22-foot jump shot to build a six point lead.

Then, after Thunder rookie Josh Giddey hit a three to cut the Jazz lead in half, Mitchell pushed the ball for a full 94-feet to get a layup with 13 seconds remaining to clib the lead back to five and essentially end the game.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go out there and just get it,” Mitchell said. “I liked those shots that I got and at the end of the day I am going to continue to take them.”

There didn’t need to be any concern after Mitchell’s tough performance against Memphis, but his play in Oklahoma City should let breathe easier heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gobert’s Late Defense

As good as Mitchell was on offense, Gobert was equally stout on defense.

Over the final six minutes of the game, the Thunder scored just two points in the paint after scoring 40 over the first 42 minutes.

With Hassan Whiteside ejected early in the first quarter, the Jazz had to rely on extra minutes for Gobert, and it helped them win the game in Oklahoma City.

Over the final half of the fourth quarter with Gobert patrolling the paint, the Thunder attempted just three shots in the restricted area, making just one, while settling for eight shots from 14 feet or deeper.

In the final six minutes of the game, Oklahoma City managed just 10 points on 3-11 shooting, while Gobert grabbed three rebounds, recorded a steal, and drew an offensive foul on Dort to earn the win.

Why Quin Snyder Plays Trent Forrest

One of the stranger storylines that seems to be bugging Jazz fans this season in Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s decision to play second-year guard Trent Forrest over rookie Jared Butler, even in extremely remote first half minutes this season.

Over the last nine games, Forrest has made eight first half appearances while Butler has appeared in none.

After his stellar preseason performance, Jazz fans expected Butler to get more regular rotation minutes, but recently he’s spent more time with the Salt Lake City Stars developing his game than with the Jazz main roster.

Forrest is playing an average of just 2.9 minutes during the first half over the last nine games, but Snyder offered a thorough answer on why he’s choosing to give the guard those minutes.

“Solid defense, he usually either makes a play that is visible that shows up in the box score like a block or steal or something like that, or he just makes a play by being solid.”

Forrest is averaging just 0.5 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 0.1 assists, but has a positive 1.8 plus-minus, the fourth-best of any Jazz player in the first half during the stretch.

“Those minutes that he’s given us, rarely does he come in and come out when the lead has changed hands or anything of that nature. Look at what he was tonight in plus-minus.”

Though Forrest played just 2:23 against the Thunder and only recorded one assist, he had the Jazz second-best plus-minus of the night at a positive seven, while giving the team’s veterans an extended breather in the second quarter.

“To come in for two or three minutes is a job and it’s an important job,” Snyder said. “For him to embrace it and have the impact that he’s having, it allows us to keep Mike [Conley] fresh for late in the game.”

The Jazz head into Thanksgiving with a 12-6 record and will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday and Saturday in rare back-to-back home games.

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