SALT LAKE CITY — Everywhere he goes, Donovan Mitchell is gaining new fans and respect for his game. You could hear Oklahoma City fans and media raving about Mitchell Tuesday night when he dropped 31 points on a Thunder team that features three NBA superstars in Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
After the game, George embraced Mitchell and could be seen giving him props for his performance. Even before the game, George had gushed about Mitchell, who he worked out with during the offseason.
“He’s really good,” George said. “He’s a tough, fearless kid. We all saw that working out with him this past summer. I knew he was going to blossom.” George also said Mitchell could be the “steal of the draft.”
Before the game, OKC coach Billy Donovan praised Mitchell, saying he has the “it” factor and that he was as much impressed by his character as his talent when he recruited him out of high school when he was coaching at Florida.
With Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson still out of the Jazz lineup with injuries, the load to carry the Jazz down the stretch fell to Mitchell. He had some great moments and like a rookie, some that weren’t so good.
Mitchell scored three big baskets in the final five minutes, but also turned the ball over twice and was blocked by Andre Roberson with his team down by three.
"This was definitely a big learning experience,” said Mitchell. “This is something to build off and there are certain things we did for three quarters that we can learn from, relish and show our success. But the fourth quarter is when we are really going to break down the film and learn from our mistakes.”
MORE OFFENSE FOR RUDY: After sitting out for 11 games with a leg injury, Rudy Gobert was playing in his second game back Tuesday night. Playing in a back-to-back wasn’t easy and Gobert didn’t have a great night, finishing with as many fouls as points (5). He also had just six rebounds and only one blocked shot in his 26 minutes.
After the game, Gobert confirmed his knee was fine, saying “The knee feels great — I didn’t feel as fresh as yesterday but the knee’s fine, so that’s good news.”
Gobert also acknowledged that he needs to pick it up offensively, after attempting just two shots and making one after going just 2 for 4 the night before.
“I think I need to be more aggressive, especially when my teammates give me the ball inside,” he said. “A few times when I had the ball under the basket, I kicked it out and I’ve got to finish those.”
Before the game, Snyder had said Gobert’s minutes wouldn’t be limited, even after playing 21 minutes the night before against Washington.
“We’re conscious of minutes. Rudy doesn’t get out of shape, we’ll monitor him again tonight. Rudy is a guy that always wants one more minute anyway.”
JAZZ NOTES: Raul Neto missed Tuesday’s game with a foot injury after missing two games last week with a hamstring injury . . . Thabo Sefolosha was questionable before Tuesday’s game because of concussion protocol, but he was cleared to play and played well against his former team, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals . . . The Jazz head out on a six-game, 12-day road trip with their first game at Milwaukee on Saturday. They’ll actually return home before the next game in Chicago on Wednesday. Utah's next home game will be Dec. 21 against San Antonio.