Former Utah Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell made NBA history on Monday night as his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 145-134 in overtime at home.
The statistic that will catch most headlines is that Mitchell scored 71 points, the most any player has scored in an NBA game since the late Kobe Bryant scored 81 against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
Mitchell is just the sixth player in NBA history to score more than 70 points in a single game (it has been done 10 times, with Wilt Chamberlain owning five of them).
But Mitchell also tallied 11 assists, marking the first time ever in league history that a player has scored at least 70 points and dished out at least 10 assists in a single contest.
He also pulled down eight rebounds, finishing just shy of a triple-double.
According to the Associated Press, Mitchell’s 71 points is the most a Cavalier has ever scored in a single game.
“I’m extremely blessed and humbled that I’m in that company, in that group, and I’ve always believed that I can be one of the best players in the league, but I got to keep working,” Mitchell is quoted as saying in a story by The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.
Certainly the most dramatic of Mitchell’s points came at the end of the fourth quarter in a game the Cavaliers — playing without young stars Darius Garland and Evan Mobley — trailed by 21 with less than two minutes to play before halftime.
With his team down by three at 130-127 with 4.1 seconds left, Mitchell went to the free throw line for two shots.
He made the first and then missed the second, but he followed the missed shot and glided in for an incredible putback to tie the game at 130, and it ultimately went into an extra session.
The play was reminiscent of just last week when Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic made a similar clutch putback in an historic performance in which he scored 60 points, pulled down 21 rebounds and dished out 10 assists in a comeback win over the New York Knicks.
All Mitchell then did in the overtime period was score 13 of the Cavaliers’ 15 points (Jarrett Allen scored the other two) as Cleveland pulled away for the win.
“I don’t know how many guys in our league who in the moment, when it’s needed, could go out and have a performance like he did tonight,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, according to Vardon.
“It wasn’t one of those games where we were in control or it was back and forth or it was a blowout in our favor. Every single play that he made was a play that was necessary. I don’t know how many guys in our league that can do what he did tonight.”
Mitchell’s performance is the continuation of a great season for him after he was traded by the Jazz to the Cavaliers last summer.
He is ninth in the NBA in points per game with an average of exactly 28 and is also averaging 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per contest.
Mitchell’s performance Monday night comes just over a week before he is primed to make his first appearance in Utah since getting traded, as the Jazz and Cavaliers are scheduled to play on Jan. 10 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.