Every Utah Jazz fan inside Vivint Arena, everyone watching at home or anywhere else held their breath for nearly the entire 15 minutes of halftime on Tuesday night.
With just 34 seconds left in the second quarter Donovan Mitchell drove hard at Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell. Donovan was issued an offensive foul after Davion fell backwards, but before the foul call could even be made official, Donovan raced back toward the locker room through the tunnel at Vivint with no warning, hobbling on his right ankle.
Mitchell was quickly followed back into the locker room by Jazz executives who were sitting near the Jazz bench during the game. And not knowing what was going on, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder had to quickly call Jordan Clarkson up to sub into the game for the final seconds of the half.
Last season Mitchell experienced his most significant injury of his NBA career when a severe right ankle sprain kept him sidelined during the last few weeks of the season and kept him limited and in pain throughout the playoffs. When he sprinted off the floor with no warning on Tuesday night, everyone in the building was thinking about that injury and that ankle.
But Mitchell returned to the court for the second half of the game and was no worse for the wear, assuring reporters after the game that while he was scared at first because he felt a sudden pain in the same ankle he’d injured last season, he was certain that it was nothing serious.
“I just rolled it, a normal thing to roll your ankle,” Mitchell said. “It was just in a moment where I was frustrated getting called and felt like I got hit, felt like I rolled it again and there was so much going on and I was like ‘man this hurts’ so I just ran in the back to make sure I was ok as opposed to sitting there and doing it in front of everybody.”
While the Mitchell of years past might have given in to his initial instinct to run straight back onto the court after the pain subsided, he was more cautious and circumspect this time around.
“You have to balance adrenaline versus the seriousness of it,” he said. “Fortunately but unfortunately I’ve had experience with this ankle so I know how to separate that and know that I’m good and that I’m not just like ‘get me back out there’.”
Mitchell took some time to calm down and make sure that he wasn’t making decisions and working on pure adrenaline. After having trainers look at him and feeling things out he felt comfortable going back out on the court and didn’t feel like there was any seriousness to what had happened. Just a routine rolled ankle.
He went on to make some of the biggest plays of the game and after scoring just 14 points in the first half he finished with a season-high 36 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.
And all of Jazz nation breathed a sigh of relief.