It was a simple free throw missed by Tristan Thompson. It’s not a big deal: secure the rebound, carry the ball across the court, set up a play, try to execute patiently.
No Donovan Mitchell had other ideas.
The All-Star guard grabbed the board and ran off, surprising Celtics defenders as he attacked the lane.
They were so surprised by his aggressive transition momentum that they didn’t notice Joe Ingles standing alone in the right corner. Mitchell did, however, throwing the ball for a 3 that settled smoothly across the net and converted a slim four-point lead into a seven-point lead with just over 3 minutes to go Tuesday night at the Vivint Arena.
Not a minute later, he surveyed the scene from the left wing and plunged into a triple rainbow from 30 feet away, a cube that simultaneously put the Jazz at 11 and brought the house down. There was 2:09 left on the clock, but that was indeed the ball game.
Final tally: Utah Jazz 122, Boston Celtics 108. Five straight wins and 16 in the last 17 games. Plus, a 20-5 record, the best in the NBA.
Mitchell certainly didn’t do it all himself: Rudy Gobert was dominant at both ends, making 8 of 9 shots and racking up 18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three assists; Joe Ingles unleashed some aggression on the court, scoring 11 3-point attempts and reaching the free throw line for 10 attempts en route to a 24-point performance and six assists; Bojan Bogdanovic was hitting shots and boxing for eight rebounds; even Miye Oni had some spectacular defensive sequences defending All-Star Jayson Tatum, who pitched just 7 of 20 on the night.
So no, Mitchell didn’t do it alone. But the Jazz also couldn’t have won this game without him taking his game to another level.
“With how talented he is on the offensive end,” Ingles said, “the last five minutes, there was no question that we are just going to give it to him and let him create.”
What he did, over and over.
In case anyone on the court didn’t know that his Rainbow 3 was the coda of the game, Mitchell brought the point home on the next possession with a 3 step back for the last of his 36 points. And in the next possession, when he threw an alley-oop at Gobert. And in the Next possession, too, when his ninth assist of the game produced another Gobert alley-oop.
He finished the game by contributing to 20 of Utah’s final 21 points, either by scoring himself or by helping someone else’s bucket.
“What goes into that is the trust factor that I have had from my teammates and coaches since I came here. And in myself. I will always have confidence in my abilities and what I can do; But the confidence factor allows me to be in that position, ”Mitchell said. “… Winning is everything. And I’m going to go out and make the plays that are necessary, be it scoring, some days will pass, there will be games in which I will go 0 of 10, 0 of 15. But, ‘by any means necessary’ sort of the motto I have. Just finding ways to win the game, and everything else will take care of itself. “
With Mike Conley missing a second straight game due to a strained right hamstring, it was Mitchell and Ingles who again filled the void in playmaking.
Gobert, when asked where Mitchell has improved the most over the course of his four years in Utah, had an immediate and decisive answer.
“Decision making. He is really able to understand the rhythm of the game and to be able to find his teammates,” explained the center. “I think he has improved every year. But this year is really where I feel, especially in recent weeks, when he’s been at his best. And when he does, the team goes to another level. “
“First of all, he’s selfless as hell,” said the Australian. “… I think he’s seen almost every cover you could probably throw at him. They’ve changed with him, they’ve bombarded him, being as smart as he is as a player, being able to read the game, and obviously the selflessness is something that ties it all together. “
Coach Quin Snyder noted that Mitchell’s progress isn’t just year-over-year, but lately, even “possession for possession.
“His pick-and-roll efficiency is something he prides himself on. His ability to engage people and then choose their venues, particularly when he feels the game and [is] without forcing himself into the game, ”Snyder added. “Donovan, like our team, just wants to improve and will not be satisfied.”
Jazz 122, Celtics 108
Tatum 7-20 8-8 23, Theis 5-8 0-0 15, Thompson 3-7 1-2 7, Brown 12-20 6-8 33, Walker 2-12 2-2 7, Ojeleye 2-4 0 -0 5, Williams 4-8 0-1 9, Williams III 2-3 2-2 6, Pritchard 1-4 0-0 3, Teague 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-86 19-23 108.
Bogdanovic 6-12 2-2 16, O’Neale 3-6 0-0 9, Gobert 8-9 2-3 18, English 5-12 9-10 24, Mitchell 12-23 6-7 36, Favors 1- 3 2-2 4, Niang 1-3 0-0 2, Oni 0-1 0-0 0, Clarkson 4-15 3-3 13. Totals 40-84 24-27 122.
Boston 27 20 32 29 – 108
Utah 24 24 42 32 – 122
Triple Goals_Boston 13-29 (Theis 5-6, Brown 3-6, Ojeleye 1-2, Williams 1-3, Pritchard 1-4, Tatum 1-4, Walker 1-4), Utah 18-48 (Mitchell 6 -13, English 5-11, O’Neale 3-4, Bogdanovic 2-7, Clarkson 2-10, Niang 0-2). Foul Out_Boston 1 (Theis), Utah None. Rebounds_Boston 35 (Brown 8), Utah 41 (Gobert 12). Assists_Boston 18 (Walker 7), Utah 28 (Mitchell 9). Total Fouls_Boston 25, Utah 22. A_3,902 (18,306)