December 2018 was a month to forget for Donovan Mitchell. He struggled mightily with his inefficiencies as a scorer, shooting 38/29/76 percent splits during the month. The Jazz went 7-7 and spent the entire month out of playoff position, only looking up at the Western Conference contenders where everything thought they would be before the season. His critics and haters grew to have quite the time on Twitter, with some claiming him to be nothing but a “Andrew Wiggins without a ROY award” or a “Dion Waiters with a shoe deal”, a “chucker”, “sixth man” etc. The Mitchell-haters were having the time of their lives while the sophomore passed through the worst month of his young professional career. But instead of letting this criticism define him as a player, he broke out of his slump and responded with the best month of his NBA career, and it wasn’t even close.
Things started to change after the game in Detroit, where Mitchell exploded for 24 second-half points after a heckling fan got him going. Mitchell hit the game-sealing dagger and shouted out from the court, “This is your fault, you did this!”
Donovan Mitchell buries the dagger against the Pistons.— Paolo del Rosario (@paodelrosario) January 6, 2019
️ "YOU DID THIS. THIS IS YOUR FAULT."
Gotta love basketball.
All of the attention was put on this poor Detroit basketball fan as the sole source of Mitchell’s fire. But I think that during this moment it was more than just this fan. It was almost a hypothetical roar to all of his critics and keyboard warriors. Whatever it was, it worked, and he wasn’t even close to being finished for the month.
Mitchell went on during the month of January to score a total of 415 points, good for third-most in the entire NBA in that span. He’s the first Jazz player to score 400+ points in a month since Karl Malone. He averaged just under 28 points per game on 45/41/79 shooting splits to go along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Nearly all of these stats were career-highs for a single month, and it was no coincidence the Jazz went 11-4 during this time and catapulted themselves back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
During the month of January I think we saw the true potential of Donovan Mitchell. Averaging 28/5/4 is an incredible thing to do for an entire month, but Mitchell has the skills to make that a season-long thing. Shooting 45/41/80 is pretty dang efficient, especially for Mitchell who is known for more of a high-volume/usage scorer. It was the first month of his career that he averaged above 40-percent from three-point land, which was HUGE. If Mitchell can shoot 40-percent from three it would be amazing, but it’s probably not super sustainable at the rate he normally fires. But regardless, it’s a great sign that Mitchell can indeed through together some consistent shooting games and score in bunches.
Before last night’s loss in Portland, Mitchell had scored 24+ points in 12 consecutive games which was the longest streak for a Jazz player in the last 24 years (Malone). It was also the second-longest streak in the NBA this season behind MVP-favorite James Harden.
Donovan Mitchell has scored 24+ points in 12 straight games (29.7 PPG in span), the 2nd longest streak in the NBA this season behind James Harden.— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 30, 2019
8:00pm/et: @Pacers vs. @WashWizards
10:30pm/et: @utahjazz vs. @trailblazers @ESPNNBA Tune-In Tidbits: https://t.co/FkDPPMMYn1 pic.twitter.com/C2i4Uari4t
Mitchell definitely would have kept his streak going had the Jazz not gotten blown out last night in Portland, but I guess it’s time for a new streak to start.
It was awesome to see Donovan Mitchell respond during the month of January. After his terrible December and loads of criticism online, it was refreshing to see him play the best basketball of his career while also winning games. This month was a great sign of things to come for Mitchell and the Jazz, and if he can keep it up there will be lots of happy fans, lots of good wins, and less unbearable trolls on Twitter.