Donovan Mitchell literally feels ill, rest of the Utah Jazz metaphorically join him after blowing game vs. Spurs

The All-Star guard has to leave the court twice Friday after feeling nauseous, but he ultimately blames the team’s total lack of defense for a blown 17-point lead and the demise of an eight-game win streak.

San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) defends as Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 17 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

Quin Snyder thought maybe Donovan Mitchell had to go back to the locker room to vomit.

The Utah Jazz PR staff clarified that the All-Star guard didn’t throw up, he was just feeling a bit nauseous.

Mitchell himself then elaborated that he absorbed a blow to the stomach early in the game, then a second one later on, periodically felt ill throughout, and twice had to leave the court to avoid puking on it.

That the rest of the team would wind up feeling sick about losing a winnable game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night seemed cosmically appropriate somehow.

That’ll happen when you don’t play much defense.

Or when you take an elbow to the gut.

Mitchell, who had already been feeling a bit under the weather in the days before the game, explained how things then took a turn for the worse.

“I got hit — I don’t remember when — at the start of the game. And [then] I felt good, and then it just came back. And I got hit again. It was contact,” he said. “I just felt nauseous. You know how you get hit in the stomach and it’s just that feeling where it’s about to come up? And I was like, I don’t plan on doing this on the floor. So I immediately subbed and ran off both times. But I’m good.”

When a media member joked with him, “You don’t want to be Sacramento guy” — referencing an infamous incident this season in which a drunken Kings fan caused a length delay by vomiting on the court — Mitchell laughed.

“Yeah! Honestly, that’s exactly where my head was,” he said. “When that happened, I was damn near about to just walk off mid-play. I’m glad Quin called timeout — I think he noticed what was happening.”

Indeed, Mitchell’s queasiness forced some alterations to coach Quin Snyder’s typical substitution patterns.

He initially subbed out at the 8:19 mark of the first quarter, with Joe Ingles coming on, then returned to action a minute and 12 seconds later. It was more costly in the fourth quarter, as he checked out with 5:20 remaining and the Jazz down six, and didn’t return until there was just 2:37 remaining.

“It just came in spurts. Unfortunately, it came at the wrong time in the fourth,” Mitchell said.

Still, after his return, he would score seven of his game-high 27 points thereafter to nearly help the Jazz salvage what would have been a ninth consecutive win.

Problem was, Utah had a lackluster defensive game, and simply couldn’t string together enough stops.

“The third quarter [in which the Jazz were outscored 41-23] and periodically throughout the game, when we had some opportunities to really extend the lead, we lost focus,” said Snyder. “… This is something we have to continue to focus on, recognize, and fight — lapses on the defensive end where we’re not as focused as we need to be.”

Rudy Gobert was even more succinct.

“We didn’t play defense,” he said. “… I think they were getting anything they wanted, to be honest.”

Still, Utah had a couple late cracks at tying or winning the game.

Mitchell got the ball on the final possession, with 2.1 seconds remaining, but was forced well off his spot and wound up having to launch a 31-foot, turnaround 3-point try that didn’t have a prayer.

“When I caught it, I didn’t see much,” he recounted. “I just knew I had 2 seconds and I had the ball in my hands, and I was praying they fouled me. I honestly didn’t get a clean look.”

It was the Jazz’s penultimate shot, though, that really hurt.

After San Antonio’s Lonnie Walker put the Spurs ahead with 14.9 seconds to go on a floating bank shot, Snyder opted not to call timeout. The Jazz got the ball in Mitchell’s hands, and he slowly dribbled up the court. In between the halfcourt and 3-point lines, he got defender Derrick White leaning the wrong way on a crossover, got downhill toward the rim, and scooped up a high-arcing long layup try that bounded off the rim.

He initially expressed surprise that it didn’t drop. Then, he amended his thinking.

“That’s the basketball gods,” Mitchell said. “When you don’t defend all game, you don’t deserve for that shot to go in.”