UTAH JAZZ

Mitchell’s Winning Plays Carry Jazz Past Knicks

Feb 7, 2022, 10:55 PM
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Donovan Mitchell made a series of winning plays late in the fourth quarter as the Utah Jazz beat the New York Knicks 113-104.

Mitchell has been spectacular in his last two games since returning from a concussion averaging 29.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists after missing eight consecutive games.

With the win, the Jazz have won three straight after a stretch that saw the team lose 11 of 13 games.

Mitchell’s Winning Plays

Mitchell didn’t have to work very hard in the Jazz’s win over the Nets on Friday as he scored 27 points on 8-10 shooting in under 22 minutes.

However, the Knicks made Mitchell work harder for his numbers, but the guard more than answered the call.

Mitchell scored seven points in the final period, but more importantly, he recorded four of his six assists and grabbed two crucial rebounds to help seal the deal.

“Just finding the ways I can impact the game outside of scoring,” Mitchell said of his clutch play.

The All-Star’s best sequence came with just over four minutes remaining with the Jazz leading 98-97 when after Mike Conley missed a corner three, Mitchell grabbed an offensive rebound over Mitchell Robinson and found Udoka Azubuike for an open dunk to extend the lead to three.

The play sparked a 7-0 run from the Jazz which ultimately ended the game.

“There were three plays that Donovan made that to me were more significant than anything,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “The offensive rebound that he got where he gave the ball back to Dok when he scored, there was a free throw play he sniffed out a handoff and he blew up the handoff up top and stole the ball, and then there was a defensive rebound.”

During the Jazz miserable stretch in January, the team lacked those types of winning plays that make the ultimate difference in the final score, even when Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were on the floor.

“We had games there where our effort was up and down and inconsistent as opposed to coming in and saying ‘Hey, I’m going to get a stop.'” Mike Conley said after the win.

Over the last three games the Denver Nuggets, Nets, and the Knicks haven’t represented the best competition in the NBA, but the Jazz have found ways to make the plays they need to in order to get victories.

Even when Gobert returns to the floor, that type of effort may be more impactful than anything the team gets at the upcoming trade deadline.

“He competed the whole game,” Snyder said of Mitchell, “we had a lot of guys who did that.”

Silver Lining Emerging From Jazz Injuries

The number of losses the Jazz incurred during January will undoubtedly make their run in the postseason more difficult as they’re unlikely to start a playoff series at home after the first round.

However, the benefits they’re seeing don’t the roster as the team’s young players who were forced onto the floor amid the numerous injuries could help ease that pain.

Trent Forrest’s growth has been obvious over the last few weeks, as has Eric Paschall’s. But over the last two games, the growth of Azubuike has taken center stage.

Azubuike had a miserable opening stretch as Knicks center Mitchell Robinson recorded 10 points, and seven rebounds in just seven first quarter minutes. Worse yet, the Jazz were outscored by six in Azubuike’s first stint on the floor.

But, rather than unravel as he may earlier in his career, the center bounced back with an effective second, third, and fourth quarter, and closed the game after Hassan Whiteside fouled late midway through the final period.

Azubuike finished with seven points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks and the Jazz outscored the Knicks by 16 in his final 22 minutes on the floor. It’s the third straight game the young center has recorded double-digit rebounds.

“Dok’s competitiveness, that that was the differentiating factor,” Snyder said of the second-year center.

Snyder faces the dilemma of trying to develop a slew of young talent on the back end of the Jazz roster while also trying to keep the team in a place where they are competing for a championship.

More often than not, he errs on utilizing the players atop his rotation, rather than dealing with the growing pains of the team’s youngsters.

However, January’s injuries eliminated that balancing act for Snyder, and the team may end up better as a result.

Snyder Discusses Trade Deadline

With the Jazz struggles over the last month, teamed with the team’s changes in the front office over the last nine months, the trade deadline has felt particularly heavy for the Jazz roster of late.

Before facing the Knicks, Snyder addressed the deadline.

“It is a business,” Snyder said, “Like any business, there’s a personal component to the business.”

The Jazz have been one of the team’s least affected by roster movement over the last two years with the core of Conley, Mitchell, O’Neale, Bogdanovic, Gobert, Ingles, and Clarkson remaining intact since late December 2019.

However, with that core having lost ground on the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors this season, a trade seems more likely at this deadline than it has in years past.

Despite the feeling that a move may be on the near horizon before Thursday’s deadline, Snyder said the team wasn’t operating any differently than it does throughout the season understanding roster moves can come at almost any point in the year.

“It’s not just towards the deadline, it’s over the course of a season and the summer. It’s kind of always there on some level, although it picks up more — that’s why they call them trade rumors, and some of them actually become not rumors. But it’s not something for us that I feel like we discuss in a specific way.”

The trade window officially closes on Thursday at 1 pm MT.

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