I think the last Portland game we had really kind of gave us a test to what playoff basketball was going to be like, and I think we were all as a team, I think we were ready. —Donovan Mitchell
OKLAHOMA CITY — Donovan Mitchell could only sit and watch from the sideline in disbelief, with a white towel draped over his shoulders.
After exploding for 27 points and 10 rebounds in his playoff debut, the star rookie guard would sit the last 3:19 with left foot soreness.
The Jazz would go on to drop Game 1 of the first-round postseason series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 116-108.
“I feel fine,” Mitchell said. “I just stubbed my toe, nothing major.”
With a sellout crowd of more than 18,000 fans cheering in Chesapeake Energy Arena heading into the final 12 minutes of Game 1, Mitchell first entered the locker room at the beginning of the fourth quarter to be examined.
He had an X-ray performed on his foot during the game, but it was negative so he briefly returned, but was ultimately benched as he attempted to push through the pain.
“I put him back in the game but when I saw him, it looked to me like he was feeling it a little bit and we just wanted to make sure so I took him out and kind of confirmed it,” Snyder said. “Then he went back in and at that point, we felt like we were gonna be difficult for us to win the game so we subbed again with a number of guys, but everything that we know right now is that he’s fine.”
Mitchell’s breakout performance was the first time a player posted at least 25 points and 10 boards in a playoff debut since LeBron James in 2006, but it wasn’t enough to propel the Jazz to victory as Paul George went off for 36 points and seven rebounds.
George issued a warning ahead of time.
During Oklahoma City’s final day of practice leading up to Game 1, he asked a scrum of reporters, “Y’all ain’t met Playoff P yet, huh?"
“It’s a fun guy to watch,” George told reporters. “It’s an out-of-body person where I just lock in and put myself into a different zone.”
Those comments may have seemed funny then, but “Playoff P” was an assassin on the hardwood against Utah, going 8-of-11 from three as the Thunder shot 48.2 percent as a team.
However, George did suffer a right hip contusion, but said “it’s good” after the win.
“Just a re-aggravation from the Atlanta game kind of crept back on me,” George said. “It happened going to the paint, going to the lane, trying to finish over (Rudy) Gobert with the left, fell on my left side and from there on it just got a little sore on me.”
The Jazz seemed poised to pull off an upset early on, jumping to a 16-4 lead in the opening quarter, with Mitchell spearheading the charge with nine points in five minutes.
OKC then regrouped with a 12-0 run to tie the game as Carmelo Anthony posted nine of his 15 points in the first quarter and both teams entered the second quarter tied at 25-25.
George led all scorers with 20 points in the first half to help the Thunder enter the break, leading 54-48.
In Ricky Rubio’s playoff debut, he also posted 11 of his 13 points by halftime. Rubio also finished with seven rebounds and five assists.
George continued to torch the Jazz during the second half as OKC led by as many as 18 points.
Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook put up 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists but shot 10 for 25 from the field with five turnovers.
“We got a slow start, got the adrenaline rush out, they started off hot and I thought we responded very well for the rest of the game, being physical, executing our game plan, and that’s all we got to do moving forward,” Westbrook said. “This game is done. We didn’t do anything special. We won a game at home. That’s what you’re supposed to do and get ready for the next one.”
OKC will host Game 2 on Wednesday at 6 p.m. MDT. The Jazz are making their 27th playoff appearance in franchise history while facing the Thunder for the first time in a seven-game series.
Mitchell received an MRI after the game, but is expected to play.
“I think it is what I expected at least for myself,” Mitchell said of experiencing the playoffs. “The physicality was there, playing through certain things, fighting through rebounds and just being more aggressive.
“I think the last Portland game we had really kind of gave us a test to what playoff basketball was going to be like, and I think we were all as a team, I think we were ready.”