UTAH JAZZ

Mitchell Lights Up New York As Jazz Down Knicks

Mar 20, 2022, 9:05 PM | Updated: Mar 21, 2022, 12:52 pm

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)...

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Donovan Mitchell put on a show in his hometown as the Utah Jazz beat up the New York Knicks 108-93.

Mitchell scored 36 points, his best performance in the Garden, on an efficient 11-21 shooting including 7-12 from the three-point line.

The win was an important one to open a six-game road trip as they fight to hold onto the fourth seed in the West.

Mitchell Rounding Into Playoff Form

Over the last two seasons, Mitchell has been one of the NBA’s best playoff performers, averaging 33.9 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds on 48 percent shooting from the floor and 46 percent from the three-point line.

With the Jazz gearing up for the playoffs, their All-Star is once again upping his game to a superstar level.

Over his last 14 games, Mitchell is averaging 27.3 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the three-point line.

Since coming back from his concussion 19 games ago, the Jazz are 14-5, tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA, have the fourth-best offensive rating, the fourth-best defensive rating, and the third-best net rating.

Not that Mitchell was bad before his recent 14-game tear, but his numbers have seen a sizable uptick.

Over his first 44 games of the season, Mitchell was averaging 25.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds, and was shooting 45 percent from the floor, but just 34 percent from the three-point line.

His superstardom was noticeable in New York when after the Knicks erased a 15 point Jazz third quarter lead, the guard dominated the fourth quarter.

Mitchell scored 13 points on 4-7 shooting, including 3-5 from the three-point line to go along with four rebounds, and a highlight reel dunk against Alec Burks.

While teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets haven’t had the types of regular seasons they’d hoped, their overall star power gives them a puncher’s chance in the postseason.

The Jazz have been far better than either Brooklyn or the Lakers during the regular season, but even during the lulls, Mitchell’s star power shouldn’t be undervalued when the Jazz reach the postseason.

Gay Finding A Rhythm?

Rudy Gay has gotten more criticism than praise for his play this season after leaving the San Antonio Spurs for the Jazz.

The veteran’s scoring and shooting numbers have both taken significant hits with the Jazz as he’s worked to find a rhythm after offseason heel surgery, and a handful of minor injuries throughout the year.

However, over the last few games, the Jazz are getting good production from Gay.

After a nine point, nine rebound outing against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Gay added 13 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks while the Jazz outscored the Knicks by 23 in his 26 minutes on the floor.

Most important however was his effort on defense where Gay helped frustrate Julius Randle throughout the night.

Randle had been averaging 28.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists over the last six games heading into Sunday night, but had one of his worst games of the season against the Jazz.

The forward scored 13 points on 6-22 shooting, as the Knicks were outscored by nine in his 34 minutes on the floor.

Gay has remarked throughout the season that the Jazz don’t need him to be the star of the team during the regular season and that the playoffs were where he needed to play his best.

The Jazz don’t need him to be a star in the playoffs either, but if he can repeat what he’s done over the last two games more consistently he’ll be a welcome contributor.

The Rest Of The Road Trip

After beginning the road trip against the Knicks, the Jazz have five more difficult stops before returning to Utah.

The Jazz will face the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, and Los Angeles Clippers before returning to Utah for one home game against the Los Angeles Lakers, then traveling to Golden State to face the Warriors.

The Nets have had more than their fair share of troubles this season, but are a tough matchup on the second night of back-to-back games. Brookyln has won five of their last six games and will have had two full days off before facing a tired Jazz team.

Boston has been the second-best team in the NBA since the new year and had won eight of 10 games heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Denver Nuggets.

Charlotte has the worst record of any team the Jazz will face on the road trip, and if the Jazz want to keep pace with the Mavericks, this is likely a must-win game.

The Jazz then head West to face Dallas in arguably the most important remaining game this season as it will determine whether the Jazz have the tiebreaker over the Mavericks at the end of the regular season. Currently, the own a 2-1 lead in the season series.

Then, the Jazz fly all the way West to face the Clippers in what will likely be a tougher matchup than Friday’s 121-92 blowout win.

“Playing against teams that are high-level teams in difficult environments has a way of focusing you,” Snyder said of the road trip. “Even if you’re not successful on the scoreboard, I think there’s usually things that you can take from it.”

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