Quin Snyder’s prescription for Donovan Mitchell’s early-game struggles: Stop overthinking it and just attack

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) tries to get past Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.

Oklahoma City • There are times — such as in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Spurs — that Donovan Michell is so dominant offensively as to be nearly unstoppable.

And then there have been some times this season — such as in the first half against the Spurs — when his struggles to score render him nearly invisible on the court at times.

Ahead of Monday’s game against the Thunder, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said the second-year guard needs to get out of his own head and simply go out there and be aggressive.

“If I wanna analyze it, that’s OK — I don’t want him to do it. And my analysis of it is Donovan just needs to attack and be instinctive,” Snyder said. “And he may make some mistakes, he may take a bad shot now and then, but the way that he’s gonna get better [is] making plays, making reads; his efficiency is if he attacks, and learns from that experience.”

The Louisville product went scoreless in the opening half against the Spurs before erupting for 27 points post-halftime. He got off to another rough start vs. Oklahoma City.

When he checked out for the first time with 3:20 left in the first quarter, he was scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting, and had committed three of the team’s four turnovers to that point.

He got his first points when he buried a halfcourt heave at the quarter buzzer.

Snyder said Mitchell simply needs to quit thinking and start just playing.

“He’s such a diligent, conscientious person that he wants to play well, and he just doesn’t need to overthink a lot of those situations,” he said. “’Cause when he’s attacking, he is unselfish, and he’s doing the right thing, and frankly that’s what our team needs.”

Mitchell did pick it up in the second quarter, scoring 11 points without committing a turnover.

Slow starts, going around

It’s not just Mitchell who’s having trouble getting going early.

After an early-season stretch of tough starts to games, Utah had been better of late. Then they managed just 36 first-half points vs. the Spurs.

Asked what his team needed to do to avoid poor starts, Snyder smiled an gave a succinct answer: “You play better at the beginning of the game.”

He went on to cite several actual specifics — turnovers, transition defense, lack of shot-making.

As for that latter one, reserve guard Dante Exum had some ideas on what the Jazz could do to improve.

“It’s important for us to break the paint, make sure everyone gets touches, make them defend. … I don’t think it’s a lack of aggression, it’s that we settle; we settle for that half-open shot,” Exum said. “… It’s maybe giving up those shots early in the possession so we can find a better shot later in the possession — make them defend even more.”

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