Donovan Mitchell scores 27 in return, leads Jazz past Nets
Brooklyn dropped its seventh straight game
Donovan Mitchell made his return — and the Utah Jazz suddenly looked like the NBA’s best offense again.
Mitchell scored 27 points after missing eight games because of a concussion, Bojan Bogdanovic added 19 points and 11 rebounds and the Jazz cruised past the short-handed Brooklyn Nets 125-102 on Friday night.
“There’s so much focus other teams have on him that it frees up other guys offensively — he’s Donovan Mitchell and makes life a lot easier for everybody,” said Alex Jensen, who was the Utah’s acting coach with Quin Snyder in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
On Utah’s first possession, Mitchell dished a no-look assist to Royce O’Neale for a three-point play. That sparked a 10-0 run to start the game and the Jazz completed a wire-to-wire victory for the third time this season and sent the Nets to a season-high seventh straight loss.
Mitchell shot 8 for 10 from the floor and had six 3-pointers and six assists in 22 minutes of energized play.
“He was unbelievable,” Udoka Azubuike said. “It looked like a video game. There was one time I had to catch myself in the moment because I was just watching him. Every shot was going in. Don is a star.”
Mitchell spoke to the media earlier in the day about his frustration at the recurring concussion symptoms since he got hit in the head on Jan. 17, so just being there for tipoff was a thrill.
“I was just happy to be playing basketball,” Mitchell said. “I was joking before the game that I didn’t care if the ball went in. I was just happy to be out there running around, guarding, thinking the game and playing with my teammates.”
The extended rest might have done him well as he played a near flawless game against the decimated Nets with drives to the basket, pinpoint passing and accurate shooting. The Jazz were 2-6 without Mitchell.
“I’d rather be out there playing, but I just told someone my legs haven’t felt that fresh in a long time,” Michell said.
But just in case he got feeling too good about himself, Mitchell said Snyder texted him after the game to point out he had four turnovers.
“That’s why we all love him. You know, he’s a man about the details,” Mitchell said with a laugh.
Brooklyn rookie Cam Thomas posted a career-high 30 points just four games after setting his previous best of 25 last week.
“They made a lot of 3s. They couldn’t miss at first,” Thomas said. “It’s very demoralizing when you’ve got to take the ball out of the hoop every time,”
Kyrie Irving, the only Nets star to play, scored 15 points on 20 shots.
“We have a lot of special guys in our league, but there are a few special guys that even separate from that group of just being special and he’s (Mitchell) one of those people,” Irving said.
The Nets were without double-digit scorers James Harden (hamstring), Kevin Durant (knee), LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and Joe Harris (ankle).
The Nets never trailed by less than 21 points the entire second half.
“We’re going through a tough stretch,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. “We’re undermanned and we’re asking guys to do more. We played against an excellent offensive team. … I just keep telling the guys that it’s about staying together through this.”
Utah played its sixth game without Rudy Gobert, who’s close to recovering from a left calf strain. The Frenchman was named to his third All-Star team along with Mitchell this week.
Eric Paschall scored 16 points, Hassan Whiteside had 15 points and Mike Conley 14 for the Jazz, who have won twice after losing seven of eight injury-riddled games.
The Jazz had 33 assists on 48 field goals as they shot 57% and went 17 for 38 from 3-point range.
“We’ve been talking about trusting each other and everybody doing their job,” Jensen said. “You could tell by the 33 assists we were trusting each other on both ends of the floor.”
INGLES SAYS HE’LL BE BACK
After tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament Sunday, Joe Ingles met with the media Friday and said he wanted to assure everyone he wasn’t going to disappear and never be seen again.
“I have zero doubt I’ll be able to come back better than what I was before,” the 34-year-old Ingles said. “My game and the way I play, I’m not going to lie, I’ve never relied on athleticism. I’ve been able to be successful by being who I am and the way I play.”
Ingles has played all eight seasons with the Jazz and is Utah’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made. His contract ends this season, but he expressed his goal to back in the NBA after the first serious injury he’s had since he was 15.
“I’ve been very vocal about me not wanting to be anywhere else and playing out my career here,” he said. “I still think I have a couple more years to give.”
Nets: Brooklyn trailed by as many as 34 in their least competitive game since a 118-88 loss to the Jazz on March 24, 2021. … DeAndre Bembry went 6 for 7 for 13 points. … Blake Griffin had three of Brooklyn’s 10 steals.
Jazz: Utah has won six straight at home in the series with Brooklyn. … Jordan Clarkson (knee) and Danuel House (virus) missed the game. … The Jazz had 16 turnovers, but dominated just about every other statistic.