Donovan Mitchell has popped up in some unexpected places this season, but almost halfway through the season, it’s not very surprising to see that he’s become a go-to guy for the Utah Jazz (16-21) in close games.
After scoring 8 points in the final five minutes of the 104-101 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Jazz rookie guard is averaging 3.2 points in “clutch” situations — defined as the final five minutes of any game with a margin of five points or fewer.
No other rookie has scored as much as Mitchell, who is 20th overall in the league in this category ahead of players such as John Wall, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis. He’s also shooting 59.1 percent from the field in these situations and has only missed one free throw. And the way he’s developing, the Jazz are going to keep looking to him in big moments.
“[He’s handled it] very well — at the end of the games, we’ve put the ball in his hands,” coach Quin Snyder said. “I’m not as conscious of whether he’s a rookie or not, he’s just new to our system like a lot of guys are.”
Compared to others on the list, Mitchell has only had a handful of opportunities: Utah has played in 11 games that qualify for “clutch” minutes, and are 5-6 in those contests. But Mitchell’s 13 field goals in those games are almost as many as his teammates (15 FGs) in clutch situations.
Veterans don’t seemed to be irked that Mitchell has become such a focal point in close games. They welcome it.
“I love it — I love the dunks and everything,” Thabo Sefolosha said of Mitchell after the game. “He’s got a ton of confidence, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
But scoring isn’t the only thing that the Jazz worry about: Snyder also mentioned he’d like to see the Jazz be a better defensive rebounding team in clutch situations. Utah typically hits under its season average (78.3 percent) in clutch situations. But that’s also something the Jazz did better at in the last game, with Sefolosha grabbing three rebounds himself in the last three minutes.
Johnson says wrist is feeling better
It has been nine games since Joe Johnson “returned” from a wrist injury, but returning doesn’t always mean full health.
That has seemed to be somewhat evident in Johnson’s shooting percentages, which are at career lows so far (.410 FG percentage). But in his last three home games, the 17-year vet has seen some improvement with 9 for 18 shooting at Vivint Smart Home Arena and 5 for 7 from 3-point range.
While he’s still struggled on the road (2 for 10 in his last two road games), Johnson said he’s still getting his strength back — but the wrist is no longer an issue.
“Just been a lot of repetition, that’s pretty much it,” he said. “As a scorer, shooter, rhythm player, that’s all you can do is just come out and get shots up.”
The Jazz recalled Tony Bradley on Tuesday afternoon from the Salt Lake City Stars, which ended his ninth G-League assignment.