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Analysis: Donovan Mitchell scored a season-high 39 in Jazz win over Timberwolves

Back after taking the last two games off for a lower back strain, Mitchell led a fourth-quarter surge for the Jazz.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, center, fights through Minnesota Timberwolves defenders.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, center, fights through Minnesota Timberwolves defenders during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-108, behind a 39-point performance from Donovan Mitchell.

High notes

  • The Timberwolves were missing a few players in the health and safety protocol but the Jazz were also shorthanded without Mike Conley (resting first night of a back-to-back) and Joe Ingles (lower back strain). That being said, Mitchell returned after taking the last two games off with a lower back injury and wasted absolutely no time. From early in the game he looked comfortable, healthy and clearly had his legs under him. A few days rest did Mitchell well and it was him who sparked a 22-0 run in the fourth quarter that put the Wolves away. Mitchell finished with a season-high 39 points, six rebounds and five assists. Mitchell was a little disappointed that he didn’t get 40 points when he checked out of the game, but after going 9-of-10 from the free throw line, he blamed himself for not reaching it.
    “I wanted 40. It’s no secret that I wanted it. But it didn’t happen. If I make a free throw, there you go. So that’s really on me at that point.” — Donovan Mitchell
  • Rudy Gay is in a really nice rhythm for the Jazz right now. While Mitchell was sidelined he really stepped up. He had 21 points on Wednesday against the Trail Blazers and 12 points against the Wolves on Friday. It seems like he’s starting to really get a feel for the team.
  • Rudy Gobert should inspire fear in the hearts of any player going at him. Period.
  • Trent Forrest got his first NBA start with Conley and Ingles out and Jared Butler finally got some extended run. While it wasn’t a huge sample, it was the most comfortable that Butler has looked in his minutes with the Jazz. Most notably Butler moved really well without the ball in his hands, a good sign for his development. If nothing else, it means that the reps that he’s getting and the work he’s putting in is in fact working.
  • The Jazz’s rebounding was really valuable against Minnesota. They outrebounded the Wolves 61-47 and a huge shoutout is deserved for Bojan Bogdanovic who had 12 rebounds to go with his 24 points for his second career double-double.
    “Our defense in the fourth quarter really picked up and that was due primarily to our ability to rebound.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Low notes

  • Hassan Whiteside left the game after playing just seven minutes and the Jazz announced that he would not return due to experiencing concussion-like symptoms. No word on whether Whiteside will be placed in the league’s concussion protocol, but it’s something that we’ll monitor.
  • Whiteside not being able to play the majority of the game forced the Jazz to play some extended time with their small-ball unit and it just wasn’t pretty stuff. Minnesota was able to make it a tight game by just blowing past defenders and the Jazz’s offense has almost no motion without a big running and screening. A lot of stagnant stuff.

Flat notes

  • The Jazz put a lot of emphasis on transition defense and usually that is in the context of a missed shot. But transition defense also includes getting back after makes and when the Jazz don’t do that it’s not really excusable.