Donovan Mitchell experienced the NBA Playoffs version of the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows in a span of two days. Monday night we witnessed one of the most insane fourth-quarter takeovers in Utah Jazz history, and one of the best ones so far in these playoffs. Down three heading into the fourth quarter, Mitchell sparked an 11-1 run that gave the Jazz the lead which they would not lose again that night. He scored 19 points in that quarter alone, on some amazing plays including pull-up threes, a filthy spin move, and an unforgettable steal and alley-oop sequence that made everyone watching lose their minds. It’s what these NBA players dream of as kids, catching fire in an NBA Playoff game and just going bonkers on the nets and securing a huge W in front of your fans.
What happened last night to Donovan Mitchell, however, is what NBA players’ nightmares are made of. In game 5 in Houston, Mitchell finished a brutal night shooting 4-22 from the field (0-9 from three), with five turnovers and just one assist. It was the worst shooting night of his career. It hadn’t even been 48 hours since Mitchell scored 19 in the final quarter in Salt Lake City, but things couldn’t have been more different last night in Houston. Without his heroics, the Jazz fell in the final minutes, and their season was over.
As I sat watching Mitchell struggle mightily in his last game of the 2018-19 season, it really got to me. He’s a guy that you want to succeed so much. It wasn’t fun watching him throw up missed shot after missed shot, or making poor decisions in the final minute including a foul in a one possession game with over 35 seconds left. It wasn’t fun watching him walk off the court with his head down, with his jersey in his mouth to, what appeared to be, an attempt at not breaking down and showing emotion. It wasn’t fun seeing all of the ill-advised takes on Twitter taking shots at Mitchell. None of that game was fun for Donovan Mitchell. As the game closed and I watched him sit in disbelief, I just thought in my head: “Man, I hope this doesn’t break him”. It didn’t take more than an hour for me to realize how stupid I was for thinking such a thing.
When responding to reporters prior to the game, Mitchell responded to some tough questions exactly how you want your star to do so.
He quoted Damian Lillard from just the night before, saying “You don’t succeed without failure. You don’t succed without going through times like this. To have that so vividly in my head in a moment like this.. I’m going to be better”.
You can’t ask for anything more from Donovan Mitchell. He was upset, but not moping around or feeling sorry for himself. He was bothered and disappointed, but still not desperate. His demeanor was perfect in the way that he stood and answered questions regarding the worst game of his professional career. It’s interesting that Mitchell was quoting Lillard, who already has some ties to Utah. Lillard has taken some pretty heavy criticism in the past couple of years, especially after getting swept in the first round of last year’s first round. Many thought Lillard didn’t have it in him to perform in the post-season, unfairly judging him after just one series. Mitchell experienced some of the same type of criticism, including some ridiculous takes on Twitter. Lillard responded this season with one of the most memorable playoff buzzer-beaters that we’ve ever seen, knocking the Thunder out of the playoffs in five games after playing a remarkable series. If Mitchell models his response on the court after Damian Lillard, good thing are going to happen. After watching him respond to reporters, I corrected myself from earlier and thought “There’s no way this is breaking Donovan Mitchell”.
Coach Quin Snyder also took some considerable time talking about how much he enjoys coaching Donovan
There’s just no way that Donovan Mitchell can fail. It doesn’t matter what the trolls say on Twitter. Those who have watched Donovan Mitchell over the past two seasons know that this guy is for real. They know he’s going to be a force in the league for years to come. He will use this game to learn and grow, and his overall career will be benefited from it. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Donovan Mitchell and his career as a Utah Jazz man.