Houston • Donovan Mitchell had his worst game of the season in the Jazz’s last game of the season.
The second-year guard shot just 4-of-22 from the field to get only 12 points in Wednesday night’s 100-93 loss to the Rockets in Game 5, adding only one assist next to five turnovers for the game. He took nine threes, including two pretty open looks in the game’s final minutes that would have significantly changed things. And in the end, his plus-minus of -13 was the Jazz’s second-worst.
“Obviously, in a closeout game, you don’t want to shoot 4-22 with five turnovers, but that happened,” Mitchell said.
The Jazz — who rely on Mitchell to carry the scoring load to a remarkable degree — tried to get him going in every way they could. They gave him more minutes against the Rockets’ bench units, trying to get him going against lesser defenders. He was used as a point guard and as a shooting guard. Neither worked.
Just as he did in the Jazz’s game against Detroit earlier in the season, Jazz coach Quin Snyder pulled Mitchell out of the game early in the second half for an early breather and a chance to watch the game from the sideline. That strategy worked then, as Mitchell turned it around for one the his best performances of the season, but it didn’t work Wednesday. And Snyder gave him a pep talk as the Jazz entered the final six minutes, hoping to get him going.
And it was obvious: Mitchell tried to attack. Time and time again, Mitchell dove into the Rockets defense, but they were ready for him. Eric Gordon mirrored his every move — Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni tried to shadow his minutes with Mitchell’s — but if he was able to get past Gordon, it meant meeting a Rocket or three at the rim. Mitchell’s layups were blocked four times during the game, and a few of his turnovers came from being stripped on his drives.
In short, Mitchell never found a rhythm. As a result, neither did the Jazz’s offense.
“In a lot of ways, how Donovan goes at times is how we go," said Snyder. "That’s a — I won’t call it a burden, but a responsibility that I think that he’s shown time and time again that he’s able to rise to the challenge. You’re not always going to have great nights, you’re not always going to be able to make the shot, or have it go your way.
“The thing I’m grateful for in having an opportunity to coach Donovan is his approach and how he goes into it. Anytime you have disappointment or adversity, hopefully you channel it.”
Mitchell says he’ll remember this night to use as motivation throughout the summer, which will be a longer one than he would have liked.
“It’s funny, Dame [Lillard] said this yesterday: ‘You don’t succeed without failure, you don’t succeed without going through times like this,’” Mitchell said. “I can tell you I’m upset and whatnot, but I’m going to be better. Simply put, I wasn’t tonight. I’ll be better.”