The 3rd Best Player Performance of 2017-18

October 9th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

Donovan Mitchell’s (45) relentless second-half attack racked up 20 points, a Jazz victory in Game 4 versus the Thunder, and the title of third best game of the 2017-18 Jazz season. (Spenser Heaps / Deseret News)

Leading up to start of the 2018-19 Utah Jazz season, Salt City Hoops is counting down the ten best player performances from last season. See games that just missed the top ten here and also check out #10, #9, #8#7#6#5, and #4  from previous weeks!

#3: Donovan Mitchell, April 23, 2018

Jazz 113, Thunder 96 in Salt Lake City, Game 4 of the NBA Playoff’s First Round

33 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, 46% field goals, 3 of 8 from three, 4 of 5 free throws. [19.5 PIE, 22.6 GmSc]1


After losing Game 1 in Oklahoma City, the Jazz then stole the next two games as their depth of talent counterbalanced the Thunder’s top-heavy trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Joe Ingles finally shook loose of George while Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert proved too much for even the otherworldly strength of Steven Adams down low.

In Game 3, however, Ricky Rubio transformed the series — at least in the media’s eyes — into a mano a mano dual. He put up a triple double2 in his third career postseason game, and did so right in the face of the ferocious and surly Westbrook, who after his second consecutive season averaging a triple double through the regular season was unused to any player bearing that badge of honor so directly at his expense. Westbrook publicly vowed to “shut that s— off next game though. Guarantee that.”

Donovan Mitchell, who had scored 27, 28, and 22 in the series’ three games so far, became almost an afterthought…  

Why It Makes the List

Westbrook was right to worry that a Jazz guard may end his season. He just focused on the wrong guard.

With the defending league MVP fixated on his personal tilt with Rubio, Anthony drifting ever deeper into his status as a dissatisfied afterthought, and George increasingly frustrated at his inability to hold everything else together, Utah’s rookie claimed the game for himself.

Facing a 58-52 halftime deficit, George tried to repeat his Game 1 performance and steal another series victory by scoring 19 points in the second half. But Mitchell, drawing on the explosive ability he’d shown throughout the regular season as a cold-blooded scorer seemingly immune to pressure, one-upped the perennial All-Star, scoring 20. 

Most impressive of all, as he did so the rookie didn’t turn the ball over. Not once. All game.

With Mitchell’s superstar-level performance at guard keying everything, the Jazz crushed the overmatched Thunder by 11 in the half, cruising to a commanding 17-point victory. In the process, the Jazz took firm control of the series, which had now taken form with crystal clarity.

Yes, the Jazz were deeper than the Thunder. That had been expected. 

But something else was happening.

No one who watched the series through Game 4 could help wondering: Was the best player in this series the rookie in a Jazz uniform?3


Take Note

No rookie guard in NBA history had scored 33 points in a playoff game while not coughing up a single turnover until Spida Mitchell’s Game 4 versus the Thunder. 

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.
Clint Johnson

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  1. Paul Johnson says:

    That film clip gets me even more excited for this upcoming season.

    I expect the Jazz to have some dynamic guard play this season with Mitchell, Rubio, Exum, Burks, O’Neale, Allen, Neto, Ingles and Sefolosha all poised to contribute at the PG and SG positions (although Ingles will primarily be playing SF and Sefolosha will primarily be playing SF or PF).

    • Clint Johnson says:

      No joke. It’s happened almost quietly, but if you look closely the Jazz’s physical attributes on the perimeter are really substantial. Mitchell is elite even by NBA standards physically, and then there’s Exum, Burks, O’Neale, and Allen, all of whom have plus athleticism in at least one physical dimension. Add in wingspan and, on the level of sheer physical attributes, Utah has one of the toughest stables of perimeter players in the league.

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