You can never feel too comfortable, I’m always learning and always trying to learn but it’s confidence. —Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY — As Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell continues to get acclimated to Utah, his comfort level increases.
Not only is he driving to the basket on the court, he’s also now driving on the Salt Lake City streets.
This week, the 21-year-old finally earned his driver’s license.
“I had a driver that drove me everywhere,” Mitchell said.
Immediately after completing driver’s training courses Thursday, the former Louisville star hit up the Larry H. Miller Used Car Supermarkets in Sandy to purchase an all black Range Rover.
“I love it,” Mitchell said of his new ride.
While his confidence heightens, Mitchell still knows he has work to do.
Utah dropped its first home game of the season 109-100 to the Toronto Raptors Friday – even with Mitchell putting up 25 points off 9-for-20 shooting off the bench and two blocks.
Mitchell caught fire near the end of the third quarter with a step back jumper, followed by a 3-pointer then a driving layup and an in-and-out 20-foot pull-up.
He posted 12 total points during that third-quarter stretch and finished with Utah’s only plus rating on the night.
“You can never feel too comfortable, I’m always learning and always trying to learn but it’s confidence,” Mitchell said. “I’m going out there just taking the open shots and not overthinking it and not overdoing it but just making the simple plays.
“That’s what I feel like I’m doing and defenses are going to start changing on me.”
Mitchell has scored 22 or more points in three of the last four games – including a career-high 28 points Wednesday during a head-to-head battle with All-Star guard Damian Lillard.
Utah entered the game, riding a three-game win streak but will look to get back on track Sunday in Houston after a day off from practice.
“Well, it wasn’t the best defensive effort,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “That’s got to be there for us. Toronto did a good job attacking us. We weren’t solid enough.”
Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan went off for a game-high 37 points against a team that allowed the second-fewest points in the league, through eight games (94.4).
Snyder knew it wouldn’t be easy. He said it before the game.
After being in Denver Wednesday, the Raptors were already acclimated to the high altitude. Toronto was also playing its sixth consecutive road game in 12 days at the Vivint Arena but didn’t show any signs of fatigue during the victory. Toronto starters Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell also contributed 15 points apiece while Jazz center Rudy Gobert ended with 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
“I think we stopped attacking,” said Gobert, who leads the league with 25 blocked shots this season. “When you attack the rim, you get better positioning for the offensive rebounds.
“When we take contested jump shots, we didn’t do it anyway, and we run back on defense, and it’s even harder to play defense.”
DeRozan put up 17 third-quarter points as Toronto outscored Utah 36-28 during that period and changed the flow of the game, even with Mitchell flourishing offensively.
“He’s a talented basketball player,” Mitchell said of DeRozan. “It’s been a great two tests, playing against four great guards in the past two games.”
James Harden and the Houston Rockets are next up for Utah at 5 p.m. MT Sunday on the road.
Snyder loves when Mitchell keeps attacking because that’s when he’s most instinctive.
Being a rookie in the NBA isn’t always easy, but Mitchell isn’t operating on cruise control. He wants to get better.
“There’s a lot of situations in the games where he’s still trying to figure it out, but part of that is that he’s playing the point sometimes and he’s off the ball,” Snyder said. “As we’ve said before, that’s a challenge but when he’s in an aggressive mindset and attacking the rim aggressively, he’s done a very good job.”