My biggest thing is that I was just relaxed and settled down. When I come into games relaxed and kind of calm, I think that’s when I start to figure out things. —Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell
PHOENIX — Ricky Rubio tried because the Phoenix Suns sure couldn’t.
After draining his sixth 3-pointer midway through the third quarter, Rubio fanned Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell with his towel as he walked toward the bench during a Suns full timeout.
Rubio’s attempt didn’t work for the home team, though, as Mitchell posted 40 points on 14-for-19 shooting to finish just one point shy of his career-high with six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
The Jazz burned the Suns 129-97 to win their fourth straight game in the process.
As the final buzzer sounded in Talking Stick Resort Arena, Mitchell enjoyed the action from the bench after 33 minutes of action while becoming the first rookie with two 40-point games in a season since Blake Griffin in 2010-11.
“My biggest thing is that I was just relaxed and settled down,” Mitchell said. “When I come into games relaxed and kind of calm, I think that’s when I start to figure out things.
“I’m slower, my pace is slower and I’m able to make the right reads and there are a lot of open lanes,” he added. “I think being able to find guys at first allowed me to get it going.”
Seventy-two hours after shocking the basketball world with a 30-point win against the Golden State Warriors, the Jazz were still on fire in Phoenix Friday.
Utah shot 56.7 percent from the field and 51.7 percent from beyond the arc to match Friday’s season-high in points (129) set against Golden State.
The Jazz also won back-to-back games by 30 or more points for the third time in franchise history. The last time that happened was in 1995.
“I’m not as concerned with the point totals of results, I just want us to play the right way,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I thought we lost a little bit of our focus in transition defense when we got the lead and I just want our habits to be there all the time no matter what the scoreboard says.”
In their last meeting on Oct. 25, the Suns topped the Jazz 97-88 in Phoenix with Mitchell scoring just two points on 2-for-7 shooting in 13 minutes off the bench.
Sure, it was early in the season, but Mitchell didn’t forget that performance. His role has completely changed since then, but Mitchell studied film of that last game to correct his mistakes.
His seven 3-pointers also set a Jazz rookie record, previously held by Wesley Matthews since 2010. He also wasn’t as surprised to reach the 40-point mark this time as he was in his 41-point game versus the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 1 in Vivint Arena.
“I’m not smiling the whole time and I didn’t know I had 40 to be honest with you,” Mitchell said. “I had no idea until Joe told me. The biggest thing is that we were clicking and everybody was clicking, and I think that was the best part about it.”
Utah’s four-game win streak is the second longest of the season. The Jazz also won six straight from Nov. 22-Dec. 4. Every Jazz starter finished with at least a plus-26 rating or higher as the team led by as many as 41.
Rubio ended with 14 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two steals. Rudy Gobert logged 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, Derrick Favors ended with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Joe Ingles added 16 points and two assists.
Suns rookie Josh Jackson posted 20 points and four rebounds while Devin Booker scored 18 points but shot 7 for 24 and went 0 for 7 for 3-pointers.
Utah (23-28) will look to win its fifth straight in San Antonio Saturday. Things are finally starting to turn around for the squad after a tough stretch of battling injuries and tough opponents. Mitchell’s 40 points only tell half the story within the overall group.
“We just focus, we’ve got a goal and we want to accomplish our goal,” Gobert said. “Everyone is on the boat and it’s getting fun. It’s getting fun, because we’re scratching the surface of what we can be.”