Mitchell Scores 18 in 3 Minutes as Jazz Blow Out Pelicans

March 11th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

The Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (45) scored 27 in Utah’s blowout of the New Orleans Pelicans, the same team he scored 41 against earlier this season. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Story of the Game

The Utah Jazz 17-point victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, 116 to 99, may be the most unique blowout in recent memory.

Utah brought a 10-game road winning streak to stack up against a New Orleans team that had won 10 straight games before Anthony Davis missed a contest due to injury. But the MVP candidate, who has been dragging his team up the playoff standings largely on his own, returned to the court to mark his 25th birthday.   

Neither team shot well in the first quarter as three rapid fouls on Derrick Favors, who has traditionally played very well against Davis, completely changed the complexion of this game. Yet a rapid stretch of four of six shooting from long range helped the Jazz to an early 23 to 13 lead.

Then Davis took the game into his two ginormous hands.

Perhaps the best player in the league the past month, Davis utterly dictated play offensive and defensively for much of the contest. He ended the night with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks, three steals, and three assists in 40 minutes on the court, earning his first career triple double. Defensively, he essentially turned half of the floor into a black hole where Jazz shots simply disappeared. By halftime he had six blocks and all three of his steals.

Utah’s offense crumbled under the pressure in the second quarter, shooting 31 percent from the field and only making a single three in 10 attempts. Ricky Rubio willed his team to stay in the game with 17 points in the half, and Joe Ingles’s mature offense added a desperately needed 11. But the Pelicans still ripped off a 28 to 19 second quarter to take a three-point halftime lead. 

The confident Pelicans continued to press their advantage, upping their lead to a game-high nine points at 66 to 57 with 4:59 to play in the third. Utah looked demoralized and enervated, suffering from unparalleled cold shooting from the majority of their dependable players. Donovan Mitchell: one of nine. Rudy Gobert: two of 10. Jae Crowder, who was coming off a season-high 22 points against Memphis: zero of seven. Derrick Favors: in foul trouble and not really involved in the offense all night.

Then Mitchell started to heat up. He hit a layup, only his fourth point of the night. Then a three went in. A reverse layup followed.

The Pelicans managed to keep their lead and because he simply couldn’t play all game, Davis went out after scoring his 25th point of the evening. In his absence, Mitchell incinerated the Pelicans.

In one of the most remarkable performances in franchise history, Utah’s beloved rookie scored 18 points in a three-minute-23-second stretch to close the third and open the fourth quarters. He shot six of seven in that time, including two of three from long range, and threw in four free throws as he repeatedly attacked the rim.

Utah’s nine point deficit became a seven-point lead and the Jazz never looked back. Davis returned the game spent, perhaps feeling his sprained ankle after resting it, and maybe demoralized by seeing a lead he essentially built himself burned away in an offensive burst of electric perfection by a rookie.

From the moment Mitchell took over to the end of the game, the Jazz outscored the Pelicans 53 to 31… in 15 minutes of play. What had once looked like a distressing loss became a 17-point blowout, making Utah only the 10th team in the last 20 years to win 11 straight games on the road. 

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Donovan Mitchell (27 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 threes), Ricky Rubio (30 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 threes, 6 free throws), and Rudy Gobert (19 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 9 free throws)

Rubio had his greatest game in a Jazz uniform, and quite possibly the greatest game of his NBA career considering the importance of this contest in the playoff chase. He was fantastic, producing his second-best scoring outing of the season as he made four of five three point shots and all six of his free throw attempts. He also led the team in assists. What doesn’t show in the stat line is his passion and toughness, which propped up the team through long stretches of inept shooting and wavering confidence.

Gobert was nearly as brilliant, coming on late offensively to cap off an all-around excellent game. His nine-for-nine night from the free throw line compensated for one of his worst shooting games of the year. A few weeks ago he went 12 of 14 from the stripe as the Jazz outlasted Minnesota on their home court. That type of free throw accuracy is unheard of for rim protectors of his caliber.

So with two such amazing games from Rubio and Gobert, why does Mitchell get top billing in today’s superstar list? 18 points in three minutes and 23 seconds! That is the type of firepower that Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard have used to redraw the offensive possibilities of basketball. It may well be the most explosive offensive outburst by any player in Jazz history! Just watch how the 21-year-old dismantles New Orleans in the final 15 minutes of this game: 

Secondary Star: Joe Ingles (20 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 threes)

Ingles scoring was vital, particularly in the first half when Davis was outplaying the whole Jazz roster by himself. Ingles’s 16 points before Utah’s late offensive explosion were enough when added to Rubio’s scoring to keep the Jazz treading water until Mitchell evaporated the Pelicans.

Secret Star: Jae Crowder (5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, +22)

Immediately on the heels of his season-high 22-point game, today Crowder couldn’t hit the floor after falling out of bed. He shot a putrid one of 11, though that single make was a three. He added two free throws to tally his five points, only the second time he’s failed to score in double figures in a Jazz uniform. It was the worst possible time for such struggles given Favors’s foul trouble. Which is why it’s so key that Utah managed to outscore New Orleans by 22 in Crowder’s 32 minutes despite his awful shooting. It’s amazing how he helps the Jazz playing winning ball even when his shot isn’t falling.

Stats of the Game

3:23 – It bears repeating: 18 points in 3:23. Carried out over 36 minutes, that rate of scoring would net over 190 points.

64 – Pelicans points in the paint. With Davis frequently pulling Gobert away from the hoop, they really missed Favors as a second rim protector.

27 – Fast break points for New Orleans, an area that has been a typical strength for the Jazz this season.

150.7 – Utah’s offensive rating from 3:08 in the third to the game’s end. Thank you, Donovan Mitchell!

24/25 – Free throws made/taken by the Jazz. Amazingly, Gobert (9 of 9), Rubio (6 of 6), Mitchell (4 of 4) and Ingles (3 of 4) took and made all but two.   


  • It’s hard to recall a more schizophrenic game. Long swathes of this contest felt all but unwatchable from a Jazz perspective; others were as exciting as anything this franchise has witnessed in years. To be on the losing end of tonight, and in what turned into a real thumping, must have the Pelicans shaken.
  • The impact of pace in this game was glaring. New Orleans’s commitment to getting the ball up the floor and at the rim as quickly as possible makes it easy to see how they play at the fastest pace in the league since DeMarcus Cousins was injured for the season, and by a notable margin. I think that pace, combined with Utah’s offensive barrage, just exhausted them physically and mentally by the closing minutes of this game.
  • Emeka Okafor was out of the league for FOUR YEARS before being conscripted by New Orleans for a run at the playoffs. Tonight he had 11 points on five of six shooting to go with six rebounds and a block. Not enough has been said about the unlikely competence he’s added to this team.
  • Almost never do the Jazz have to stand up against a defensive force akin to Gobert, someone who can seem to guard an entire team by himself. Davis did that tonight, after coming back from a hurt ankle. Between his length and mobility he seemed to play according to different laws of physics for much of the night, making plays other players never even think of attempting as they recognize they’re just not possible. Given the weight he’s shouldered during the recent winning streak, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t run out of gas at points in the future as he did in the closing period tonight.  
  • Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles, and Gobert combined for 96 points. Wow!
  • Great players can traumatize entire franchises. Jordan and the Cavaliers. LeBron and the Hawks1. While he has a lot left to do, Mitchell has laid the groundwork for that type of impact on New Orleans. He scored 41 to close them out earlier this season, taking over in the fourth quarter. He just scored 25 in the final 15 minutes of play, turning a game they thought they had into a blowout loss. Now with 28 losses, there’s no telling where New Orleans might fall in the playoff race. Should they fail to make the postseason, or even fall to seventh or eighth where a quick loss to either Golden State or Houston is all but assured, what effect might that have on Davis’s confidence in the Pelicans?

The Jazz have won 18 of 20 and, amazingly, still have not managed to climb into eighth position in the Western Conference playoff standings. Against all odds, the Clippers are seven and three in their last 10 games and refuse to go away. Denver kept pace with the Jazz by smashing the Kings today, while the Timberwolves upset the Curry-less Warriors. 

There is incredible basketball being played around the cutoff line to the playoffs out west. But one things is certain: after three straight blowout wins on the road, any team but a championship favorite is an underdog against the Jazz right now. And their next five opponents are the Pistons on Tuesday, then the Suns, Kings, Hawks, and Mavericks, all teams out of playoff contention.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.


  1. John Jenkins says:

    The Jazz could have taken the heart out of the Pelicans. The Jazz seem to have a different man up each night. Surely make it hard to game plan against them. Amazing game finished in a unique fashion.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’m really interested to see how the Pelicans finish the season. The load on Davis has been so great, I can’t imagine he won’t hit periods of exhaustion like he did in the fourth quarter against the Jazz. If he isn’t all-world, how good is this team? They’re in a good position to make the playoffs with only 28 losses, but he’s been injury-prone throughout his career. If he simply played poorly or was hurt for a week, that might be enough to cost them the playoffs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *