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Donovan Mitchell’s special playoff debut

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Donovan Mitchell had a special first game in the playoffs.

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

27 points, that’s how many points Donovan Mitchell scored in his first playoff game. Twenty seven points. Gordon Hayward didn’t eclipse 20 points until the third game of the Los Angeles Clippers series last year and he was in his seventh season. That’s not to take anything away from Gordon Hayward, Jazz fans expected him to get buckets. In that same vein, Jazz fans are not shocked when Donovan Mitchell scores 27 points in a playoff game. He’s been doing that all year—why would he stop now?

What makes Donovan Mitchell’s playoff debut so special is only 10 rookies have scored 27 points or more in their playoff debut. That list?

  1. Derrick Rose - 36
  2. Brandon Jennings - 34
  3. Tim Duncan - 32
  4. Walter Davis - 31
  5. Ben Gordon - 30
  6. Alonzo Morning - 30
  7. Mitch Richmond - 30
  8. Billy Ray Bates - 29
  9. Stephon Marbury - 28
  10. Donovan Mitchell - 27

Now let’s make this even more amazing. Here’s the list of players that have scored at least 25 points and had a double-double as a rookie in their playoff debut.

  1. Derrick Rose - 36 points, 11 assists
  2. Tim Duncan - 32 points, 10 rebounds
  3. Alonzo Morning - 30 points, 11 rebounds
  4. Donovan Mitchell - 27 points, 10 rebounds
  5. Sam Perkins - 26 points, 13 rebounds
  6. David Robinson - 26 points, 13 rebounds
  7. Andres Nocioni - 25 points, 18 rebounds
  8. Billy Owens - 25 points, 11 rebounds
  9. Roy Tarpley - 25 points, 11 rebounds

Donovan Mitchell is among rare company. Even rarer when one considers that he’s living large as a guard getting a double-double with rebounds.

Also, remember how good Derrick Rose was?

Donovan Mitchell did this in 35 minutes. He probably would have played longer in this game but an ankle injury hindered him. What’s crazy is this was a good Donovan game, but not his best.

What’s even more remarkable about Donovan Mitchell’s 27 point playoff rookie debut is he did it with only 2 free throws. He wasn’t getting calls at the rim. Most likely a combination of being a rookie and being on the road. He also didn’t create as much contact. He was being slippery in the lane or using the floater. If Donovan is even MORE aggressive in going to the hoop there’s a good chance of getting Steven Adams in foul trouble which would open the lane up more and help his teammate, Rudy Gobert, immensely.

Donovan Mitchell started this game hot as a pistol with 6 quick points. Donovan continued to get open looks against the Thunder defense. He actually got open for two wide open threes in the first half and the shot didn’t fall. The second one of those threes he seemed bothered by Paul George’s length. Billy Donovan has decided in this series that he’s going to put length on Donovan Mitchell with Paul George and Corey Brewer doing much of the heavy lifting.

While the Jazz seemed to be down perpetually all last game by 7 points, it actually was a lot closer than one would think. Donovan Mitchell’s gravity allowed his teammates to get some wide open looks. They just didn’t hit them. That was never more apparent than when Ricky Rubio missed two WIDE open threes above the break that he had been hitting with regularity since All-Star break. The OKC Thunder had decided that they’d rather give Ricky Rubio a wide open three than cede any space on the perimeter or any inch of the lane to the hoop to Donovan Mitchell.

Donovan Mitchell had an amazing playoff debut. With a few tweaks (and more favorable officiating), his encore could be even better.