Paul George has had up-close-and-personal experience facing Donovan Mitchell in the playoffs.
Aside from going against the point guard in the Utah Jazz’s Game 1 win Tuesday over the L.A. Clippers, Paul watched Mitchell lead the Jazz to a first-round win in 2018 when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mitchell averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals through six games in that series.
Mitchell poured in 45 points Tuesday against the Clippers, willing the Jazz to a victory after the team’s lackluster first half. George after the game reflected on just how far the Jazz point guard has come in three short seasons.
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“I think he’s showing a lot of growth in that area of just putting a team on his back and stepping up as their leader,” George said.
The Jazz needed every one of Mitchell’s points in Game 1. He came alive in the second half, at one point scoring 10 straight points to get Utah back in the game. It was his play that got the Jazz over the hump down the stretch.
“Donovan Mitchell had it going tonight,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.
Mitchell is also getting closer to making Jazz history. With his 45-point performance in Game 1, he now has four games in the playoffs in which he’s scored 40 or more. That ties him with Jazz legend Karl Malone for the most in franchise history.
He even did it while being under the weather and nauseous.
Kawhi Leonard described Mitchell as an “All-Star-caliber player” and said it was up to the Clippers to “take the challenge and try to slow him down.”
Game 2 is on Thursday in Salt Lake City, and the Clippers will certainly make adjustments to find a way to limit Mitchell’s production. But in the meantime, it appears he has the opposing team’s attention.
“His growth has just been upward,” George said. “He’s been playing great this year and he came out and he played great tonight.”