By MATTHEW COLES | Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell tries to keep his cool with the officials.
In a tie game against Chicago, Mitchell protested a non-call with an especially vocal and demonstrative outburst in the third quarter. He got a technical foul and the switch was flipped.
“I was hot," Mitchell said about his anger.
Mitchell went on to score a Utah-record 25 of his 37 points in the third quarter, Jordan Clarkson added 26 and the Utah Jazz beat the Bulls 125-110 on Wednesday night.
Feeling nostalgic before the game, Mitchell was watching Game 6 of his first playoff series against Oklahoma City his rookie season. He remembered that level of confidence and how big the hoop seemed when he led the Jazz to the win. Then he replicated it against Chicago.
“Once I saw the 3 on the wide pin go down, it was on,” Mitchell said. “From there, I just started getting to my spots and do what I do. Sometimes you just gotta go to that place inside you.”
Mitchell made a franchise-record seven 3-pointers in the third period on nine attempts. He broke Karl Malone’s team mark of 22 points in a third quarter. Mitchell finished with nine 3-pointers, besting his previous career best of seven.
“He just got really hot. That’s the type of player he is. We know that. We could have tried to do a better job of trying to take him out of that (rhythm) and get the ball out of his hands,” Zach LaVine said.
In the fourth quarter, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said “we did trap him some to try to slow him down” but that just opened the door for other players like the seldom-used Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Alexander-Walker, who came to Utah in a Feb. 9 trade from New Orleans, had only nine total points in his first seven games with the Jazz. So what happened?
“Don happened! The gravity he pulled to himself because of the shots he was making … they were so hyper-focused on him,” Alexander-Walker said.
LaVine, who has been affected by a sore left knee, made five 3s and had 33 points in tying his highest scoring output in four months. DeMar DeRozan added 25 points. The Bulls have dropped seven of nine.
“We had a really hard time controlling the ball. Our guards could not get the ball under control at all from Clarkson and Mitchell and Conley. They kind of really had their way with (us) and they’re great off the dribble,” Donovan said on the Bulls’ second-half defensive struggles.
Ayo Dosunmu’s layup trimmed Utah’s lead to 103-99 before the Jazz responded with a clinching run.
Alexander-Walker had two 3-pointers from the corner in a 14-0 run that featured suffocating defense and floor-spacing offense. Rudy Gobert’s free throws capped the run and lifted the Jazz to a 117-99 lead with 4:38 to play.
“We raised our level and did a great job defensively, especially with the scorers they have,” Gobert said.
Mitchell’s huge third quarter pushed the Jazz ahead 89-81 entering the fourth quarter.
Gobert had 14 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks while Mike Conley had in 14 points and seven assists.
The Jazz played without second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic (left calf strain), along with key reserves Trent Forrest (right wrist sprain), Danuel House (left knee bone bruise) and Udoka Azubuike (right ankle sprain).
Alexander-Walker, Juancho Hernangomez (who got his first start with Utah) and other Jazz players who rarely get meaningful time in the games are the first ones to practice on game days.
“I was really happy for Nickeil because people don’t see that every morning before shootaround those guys are in there at 8 o’clock working out and going hard too,” Mitchell said.
Sometimes they get on the court again after the starters leave and then come early before the game starts. That makes three sessions whether they get game time or not.
“Since being here, I can’t even count the number of corner 3s and other stuff we have been working on in practice,” Alexander-Walker said. “That work with the Breakfast Club is paying off. Gotta trust it.”
Bulls: Chicago had 22 fast-break points to seven for the Jazz. … DeRozan had seven of the Bulls’ 28 assists. … Dosunmu had 15 points and six assists.
Jazz: Mitchell picked up a technical in the third quarter. He was especially animated at a non-call and followed the official while shouting. … The Jazz reserves outscored their Chicago counterparts, 49-22.
Bulls: At Phoenix on Friday night.
Jazz: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
The Chicago Journal needs your support.
At just $20/year, your subscription not only helps us grow, it helps maintain our commitment to independent publishing.