Donovan Mitchell is probably going to be revered throughout his career for his scoring ability, and rightly so. The Utah Jazz’s three-time All-Star guard is as dynamic as they come.
But what can sometimes get lost when a player like Mitchell is praised so much for their lethal ability to score is the impact they have when the ball is not in their hands or when they are making plays for others. That’s where we focus tonight.
Mitchell finished with 32 points in the Jazz’s 113-104 win over the New York Knicks on Monday night. But in the fourth quarter alone, Mitchell dished out four of his six assists, and grabbed three of his four steals on the night.
“That’s what we want to see even more,” Mike Conley said of his teammate. “We know what he can do offensively, but he’s taking over the game in other ways. The ones that we’re putting on in film every day and preaching. And as a leader, from his standpoint, he has to go out there and do all the things that he’s asked us to do. And when he does that it gets us all going.”
This is Mitchell’s first of four assists in the fourth quarter. Jordan Clarkson probably shouldn’t have passed up the open 3 here, but he gives it up because he’s not been shooting great and Mitchell is at the top of the arc and pretty open himself. But Evan Fournier closes out really well. Only problem for the Knicks is that the Jazz have another shooting weapon sitting ready and Mitchell swings the ball to Royce O’Neale who lets his defender blow by so he can hit an open practice shot.
The next trip down the court, the Knicks don’t learn their lesson and they are paying way too much attention and not enough to O’Neale so Mitchell just gets O’Neale the same shot. That’s just Mitchell reading the defense and making them pay for overplaying.
Mitchell’s third assist of the fourth quarter involves a lot more than just reading the defense and passing the ball.
The gravity that Mitchell carries on the court is incredible and this video does a good job of showing that. He penetrates to the right of the paint and literally all five Knicks are looking at him, not concerned with how close they are to any other Jazz player. Mitchell toughs out a pass across the court to a wide open Mike Conley. That’s a great shot and an open look the Jazz are happy that they generated.
But Conley misses and it doesn’t matter because Mitchell crashes inside and out-rebounds Mitchell Robinson, pulling down a critical offensive board and, as he’s falling out of bounds, dishes the ball to Udoka Azubuike for an easy dunk.
For his fourth and final assist of the night, Mitchell steals the ball before Alec Burks can get to it after Fournier dribbles it off his own foot. Then, immediately recognizing that Bojan Bogdanovic was sprinting to the other end, tosses it ahead so that Bogdanovic can finish off the open fast break.
“There were three plays to me that Donovan made that were more significant than anything,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “There was the offensive rebound he got where he gave the ball back to Dok and he scored ... he blew up a handoff and over the top he stole the ball and there was a defensive rebound ... those are winning plays.”
There was also this play where Mitchell seems to have his eyes all over the Knicks’ play and picks off Julius Randle’s pass that was intended to go to the corner. Then, Mitchell misdirects the defense, making it look like he’s going to bring the ball all the way up, but he passes ahead to Jordan Clarkson who gets past Fournier for the score.
And of course there was Mitchell’s final steal of the night when he got in between Fournier and RJ Barrett and took the ball all the way to the other end for a windmill dunk that punctuated the Jazz’s fourth-quarter run, taking away any hope the Knicks had of cutting the lead in a meaningful way.