Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell writhed in pain on the Vivint Arena court with 12 seconds remaining in Thursday’s Game 2 against the LA Clippers, reaching toward the right ankle that he sprained several weeks ago.
Mitchell got up after several seconds, shot his free throws and finished the 117-111 victory that gave the top-seeded Jazz a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series. He limped off the floor after the win, but Mitchell insisted his health is no concern as the series heads to Los Angeles.
“I got hit and it hurt, but I’m fine now,” Mitchell said after his 37-point performance. “I walked in here. If you want me to sprint for you, I can. I’m good. You know, s— happens. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad. Move on and get ready for Game 3.”
Mitchell, who was a late scratch for Utah’s postseason opener due to the ankle sprain that sidelined him for the final 16 games of the regular season, has been one of the most dominant forces of the playoffs so far.
The Jazz are 6-0 with Mitchell in the starting lineup this postseason, and he’s averaging 32.7 points per game, putting him in historically elite company. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the only players with higher scoring averages while winning their first six games of a postseason are Kobe Bryant in 2008 (34.3) and LeBron James in 2017 (34.2).
Mitchell has been especially prolific against the Clippers, averaging 41.0 points on 52.5% shooting from the floor, while the Jazz opened the series with two home wins despite the absence of fellow All-Star guard Mike Conley Jr. (hamstring).
“He’s just stepping up in a big way,” said Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, the Sixth Man of the Year who had 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting in Game 2. “He’s been a real superstar, MVP-caliber player, All-NBA type of guy. That’s his job, and that’s what he does.”
After scoring 32 of his 45 points in the second half of Game 1, Mitchell torched the Clippers right after the opening tip Thursday. He had 10 points in the first 3 minutes, 14 seconds, as the Jazz made the Clippers pay for going back to their big starting lineup by attacking center Ivica Zubac in the pick-and-roll. Mitchell finished the half with 27 points.
After Utah’s lead ballooned to 21 points in the third quarter, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue found a way to disrupt Mitchell’s rhythm, going to a zone defense that cooled off the Jazz and allowed LA to get back in the game.
“I think we got a bit stagnant in it, kind of looking at Donovan to make a play each time,” said Jazz forward Joe Ingles, who had 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Mitchell played a supporting role as the Jazz closed out the Clippers, who rallied to take the lead after Reggie Jackson hit back-to-back 3s midway through the fourth quarter. Ingles starred down the stretch, driving for a scoop shot that he banked high off the glass to tie it up on the next possession and then dishing out two assists and hitting the dagger 3 during the win-sealing 9-0 run.
“I don’t feel like I have to go out there and do everything,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s a credit to my teammates, credit to the guys that we have on this team. They can go out there and make plays. … I don’t feel like I have to go up there, walk it up, do everything. There are times where I will have to do that. That’s just part of my job, but for me, it’s great to have a group of guys that trust you and you trust. You just go out there and play and have fun.”