Explosive Mitchell leads Jazz into affair with Pelicans
Donovan Mitchell's ability to take over a game continues to reach new levels.
Mitchell opened March with a bang, pouring out a career-high 46 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. The Utah Jazz guard tallied 19 points in the fourth quarter alone to rally his team from a 17-point deficit for a 115-111 victory.
Now Utah hosts New Orleans on Monday night having won five straight and eight of nine at home. Mitchell has played a key role in propelling the Jazz fortunes forward.
In his last five games, the second-year guard has averaged 33.0 points on 45.9 percent shooting from the field. Mitchell is also averaging 5.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 0.8 blocks in that stretch. With his 46-point outburst, the 22-year-old Mitchell also became the youngest player in Jazz franchise history to score at least 45 points in a game.
Mitchell classified it as his best regular-season game yet because of how he mentally evolved throughout the game.
"In the beginning of the game I wasn't really sure what I was doing -- they kind of threw different looks at me," Mitchell said. "Then as the game went on, I started (telling) myself: 'Look, you gotta push through.'"
One element that has stood out from Mitchell's game since the NBA All-Star break is his ability to get to the free throw line. Mitchell is averaging 8.6 free throw attempts per contest over the last five games. He is making those trips to the foul line count.
Mitchell is shooting 81.4 percent on his free throws over the last five games. This marks a slight uptick from his 79.7 percent season average.
"The biggest thing is just going up there and not thinking about it," Mitchell said.
New Orleans is experiencing a bit of a resurgence thanks to strong play from Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans are 2-0 in March after posting back-to-back wins over Phoenix and Denver. Randle and Holiday had a big hand in each positive outcome.
In the two victories, Randle averaged 25.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting. He also tallied 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. Holiday is also averaging 25.0 points in March to go along with 7.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
Their efforts enabled the Pelicans to rally from a 19-point deficit to beat the Nuggets 120-112 on Saturday. It proved valuable in a game in which All-Star Anthony Davis did not play.
"Sometimes, it's a little easier with Anthony out there, where talent just takes over," Holiday said. "But, when he's not there and we're on a back-to-back, we just have to be scrappy."
This is the first of two meetings over three days between Utah and New Orleans. The Jazz and the Pelicans will also play on Wednesday in New Orleans. New Orleans guard Frank Jackson, who played high school basketball in Utah, will play his first NBA game in his home state.
Utah won the first meeting on October 27, beating New Orleans 132-111 to hand the Pelicans their first loss of the season. Ricky Rubio led the Jazz with 28 points and 12 assists. Rudy Gobert added 25 points and 14 rebounds. Davis didn't play due to an elbow injury.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 3, 2019