SALT LAKE CITY — After Friday night’s tough two-point loss to New York, Donovan Mitchell brightened up when he was asked if it was good to be playing less than 24 hours later against the L.A. Clippers.
“Yes, 100 percent,” Donovan replied.
Mitchell was anxious to put one of his poorer performances of late in the rear-view mirror after he made just 7 of 21 shots and committed five turnovers in the disappointing defeat.
The rookie from Louisville did just that with a 23-point performance on 9-of-16 shooting, while dishing out seven assists and leading the Jazz to a 125-113 victory at Vivint Arena Saturday night.
But Mitchell wasn’t the only one who bounced back from Friday as the Jazz put together one of their best offensive performances in a long time with all five starters scoring in double figures and shooting 54.9 percent from the field as a team.
Joe Ingles, who was back in the starting lineup after a one-game hiatus, scored a career-high 21 points with five 3-pointers. Derrick Favors had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Rudy Gobert, in just his second game back after sitting out 15 games with a leg injury, had 14 points and three blocked shots, while Ricky Rubio scored 12 points.
Then there was Alec Burks, who came back from a pair of DNP-CDs (the coach didn’t play him) with a strong game off the bench, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.
“It was good to see the ball go in the basket,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I think the ball really moved. In the first half, we attacked the rim – guys were committed to attacking. If you do that, you have an opportunity to break a defense down.”
Mitchell, despite his offensive heroics, still plays like a rookie at times and he made up for a rookie mistake with perhaps the play of the game after the Clippers had cut a 25-point lead down to seven with 1:32 left.
Mitchell put up an ill-advised 3-pointer with 18 seconds still on the shot clock, which Milos Teodosic rebounded. Suddenly, Mitchell stepped in front of a pass by Teodosic and went in for any easy layup to give Utah some breathing room.
Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers called it one of the key plays of the night and the humble Mitchell couldn’t help but agree.
“It changed the energy after the terrible three that I took,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t think he was going to pass it and I just stood there and waited. I guess he didn’t see me until the last second. My intention was to get back, but he made the pass and I guess I was in the right place at the right time.”
Early on, it looked the Jazz were going to blow the Clippers right out of the gym. Even though the Clips had come in as one of the hottest teams in the NBA with 12 wins in their last 15 games, including six in a row, it was the Jazz who came out with the most energy in leading from the opening tip and never trailing.
The Jazz led 39-29 after one quarter and increased the lead to 76-59 by halftime, scoring 12 more points than their previous best first half total this year. The Jazz shot 68.2 percent in the second quarter and finished the half at 62.5 percent.
The lead got as high as 25 midway through the third quarter at 94-69 before the Jazz started getting careless with the ball and the Clippers started making shots. Los Angeles cut 10 points off the lead in just a couple of minutes, but the Jazz pushed the lead back to 104-87 at the end of the quarter.
L.A. pulled within eight at 108-100 midway through the fourth, but the Jazz hung on, thanks to Mitchell’s steal and some timely free throws down the stretch (8 of 12 in the final four minutes).
The Clippers’ big two, Blake Griffin and Lou Williams, scored 25 and 31 points, respectively, while Wes Johnson scored 17 off the bench and former Jazzman Tyrone Wallace added 12.
“Honestly we just didn’t have it,” said Rivers. “I thought they played a lot harder than us, which I rarely say. I just thought they played great tonight.”
Now the Jazz, who improved to 19-27, will hit the road for three games beginning Monday at Atlanta. Then they’ll play at Detroit Wednesday before playing at Toronto Friday.