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Donovan Mitchell tries, but can't lead Jazz to victory vs. Hornets

CHARLOTTE — Donovan Mitchell was terrible during the final five minutes of Utah’s 99-88 loss to Charlotte Friday night at the Spectrum Center. And he’ll be the first to tell you.

At least three times in his postgame interview, Mitchell mentioned how he turned the ball over “four straight times” in the key stretch of the ballgame.

Besides those four turnovers, three on passes and one on an offensive foul, Mitchell missed five shots, including his only free throw miss of the night after nine makes, as the Hornets went on a 14-3 run to end the game.

But can you blame the guy? After all, Mitchell had to be totally exhausted after carrying his team on his shoulders for the first 43 minutes in the final game of a nine-day, four-game road trip. Mitchell did everything but take tickets and sell popcorn, but he couldn’t come through in the final few minutes for the Jazz.

Mitchell and seldom-used Royce O’Neale were the only players of worth for the Jazz on this rainy night in Charlotte. Mitchell finished with 35 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including five 3-pointers, while O’Neale had his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes of play.

The rest of the Jazz players struggled as the team fell to 17-25 in losing their first game of the second half of the season against a team with a worse record than them coming in.

Rodney Hood, who earlier in the day was fined $35,000 by the NBA for the incident with the fan in Washington, scored 15 points, but he was only 4 of 13 from the field. Ricky Rubio shot 3 of 11, Joe Johnson 2 of 8 and Joe Ingles 1 of 6. That’s just 10 of 38 for four of your main outside players.

Inside, the Jazz got very little as Derrick Favors, who was coming back from missing a game with a sprained ankle, scored just five points in 28 minutes and his backup, Epke Udoh, scored one point in 19 minutes. Jonas Jerebko went scoreless and Thabo Sefalosha scored seven before leaving the game with a sprained right knee in the second half.

“I don’t think we did a good job of getting in the paint,” said coach Quin Snyder. “I don’t know how many points in the paint we had, but we just weren’t able to attack the rim like we needed to.”

Snyder praised his team’s defense, calling it “fairly solid,” but said the offense was lacking particularly down the stretch.

“We had a game where we didn’t shoot well obviously,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to score to win, but we didn’t score late. I thought we got some good looks. But when you get behind a little bit, it got a little hectic at the end. That can happen.”

The Jazz and Hornets played pretty even all night with neither team able to break away. It was tied after one quarter at 25 and Charlotte took a 52-46 lead into the locker room. After three quarters the Jazz trailed by two at 74-72.

When Mitchell knocked down his fifth 3-pointer with 5:50 left, it was tied 85-85 and the Jazz looked to be on their way to their second straight road victory.

But then it all fell apart.

Mitchell’s pass was intercepted and Nic Batum scored at the other end. Then with three guys surrounding him, Mitchell tried to pass out and it was stolen again. The next time down, Mitchell shot an air ball from long range.

After the Jazz pulled within 90-87 on a dunk by Favors, Mitchell missed an 18-footer, then lost the ball to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on a steal. His final turnover came on an offensive drive up the middle that was called a foul.

Afterwards, Snyder didn’t blame it on tiredness by Mitchell, who played 36 minutes, the fifth time in six games he’s played that many minutes.

“That’s the mentality I want him to have, that’s the mentality I want all of us to have,” Snyder said. “He did a lot of good things tonight and made a lot of good plays offensively. And at the end of the game, he still was aggressive and attacking and that’s what we want from him and he’ll get better.”

Mitchell, who said he didn’t know Charlotte owner Michael Jordan was in the house until after the game, didn’t blame the loss or his mistakes on fatigue.

“I don’t think we were tired,” he said. “I think it was more a lack of execution. For me personally, I turned the ball over four times. I’ve been making those adjustments on the fly all year, but for some reason I didn’t make them tonight. I don’t know what the hell I did tonight.”

The Hornets were led by Kemba Walker with 22 points as he led his team to its fourth straight home victory over Utah. Frank Kaminsky scored 16 off the bench, and former Jazzman Marvin Williams added 15 points. Kidd-Gilchrist scored 12 and Batum and Lamb chipped in 11.

The Jazz returned home early Saturday morning and will take on Indiana at home on Monday night before going to Sacramento for a Wednesday game.