On the few occasions Donovan Mitchell hasn’t played, the Utah Jazz have shown they are still capable of winning. They are 3-0 without him this season, with two wins over the Dallas Mavericks and one over the Memphis Grizzlies.
However, they sure do like having him on the court, and Friday night against the Chicago Bulls was another example. Mitchell will be on the court again Saturday night when the Orlando Magic visit Salt Lake City.
On Wednesday, Mitchell cheered on his teammates via his Twitter account during the Jazz’s win at Memphis. He had decided not to continue on following a traumatic midflight incident forced the team plane to make an emergency landing back in Utah.
Two nights later and back in Salt Lake City, the two-time All-Star returned to the lineup to lead the Jazz to a 113-106 win over the Bulls.
Mitchell struggled from the floor — 7-for-21 overall and 2-for-9 from 3-point range — but stepped up in the final six minutes to finish with a game-high 26 points.
Not only did Mitchell score eight straight after the Bulls made a game out of what had been a 17-point contest, but he also had a key offensive rebound and alert assist that resulted in a timely Bojan Bogdanovic 3-pointer. In addition, he provided steady leadership.
The high-flying Mitchell also had the dunk of the night with the game on the line when he surged to the hoop and elevated over Bulls center Daniel Theis.
It all helped the Jazz secure their eighth consecutive win overall and their franchise-record 21st straight victory at home. Utah’s only losses in Salt Lake City this season happened in 2020. The Jazz are 21-0 at home in 2021.
“I think the biggest thing is staying with it. It’s not always going to be pretty,” Mitchell said. “But we went out there and competed throughout the whole game. Credit to them. They did a lot of good things to come back, but we stayed the course, stayed with it and finished when necessary.”
Though Mitchell provided his usual scoring — thanks in part to 10-for-10 free-throw shooting — the Jazz star also had plenty of help from Rudy Gobert (19 points, 13 rebounds), Jordan Clarkson (19 points) and Bogdanovic (18 points).
“My teammates trust me. My coaches trust my work,” Mitchell said. “The biggest thing is we pulled it out as a team, and we all did what we were supposed to do.”
The new-look Magic — no longer with Aaron Gordon or Nikola Vucevic — were also in Utah on Friday while the Jazz hosted Chicago. Orlando had the day off after a 115-110 overtime road win Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans, who were without Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
Orlando comes into this meeting as part of a strange five-game road trip in which the NBA schedule-makers sent them to Los Angeles for games against the Lakers (a 96-93 loss) and Clippers (a 103-96 win), then to New Orleans followed by a couple of games in the Rocky Mountains at Utah on Saturday and Denver on Sunday.
Wendell Carter Jr. scored 21 points against the Pelicans, and Terrence Ross was clutch late while finishing with 19 points.
“I’m just one of the older vets, and I’m trying to lead by example and just help people when I can, just play my game and try to figure this thing out,” said Ross, who is in his ninth season. “It’s all new for everybody. So, I’m just here trying to see where I fit in now.”
The status of Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams is uncertain for Saturday after he sat out the Thursday game due to a non-COVID-related illness.
–Field Level Media