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The Triple Team: Donovan Mitchell's back-to-back highlight plays lead Jazz to win over Celtics

The Triple Team: Donovan Mitchell's back-to-back highlight plays lead Jazz to win over Celtics

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 68-65 win over the Boston Celtics from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.

1. Donovan Mitchell ignites crowd with defensive energy

That might be the most impactful eight point performance in summer league history. Celtics No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum was having an efficient game against the likes of J.P. Tokoto. Then, Donovan Mitchell asked Jazz summer league head coach Alex Jensen if he could guard Tatum.

With a 13-point deficit in the middle of the third quarter, Mitchell turned the game around with two quick steals, including one on Tatum. That got the lead back down to a manageable eight, leading to the fourth-quarter comeback.

> Donovan Mitchell says gimme that, and throws it down on the other end. He's been unreal. [pic.twitter.com/cwvziztYZd](https://t.co/cwvziztYZd) > > — Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) [July 7, 2017](https://twitter.com/MikeSGallagher/status/883147872958427136)

And what a comeback it was. The Jazz outscored the summer league Celtics 22-11 in the fourth, thanks primarily to some stingy defense and the offense that was created during those opportunities.

The two best plays of the entire game came back to back, with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter. Mitchell picked up Tatum at the 3-point line, mirrored his every movement, then stole the ball and drew the loose-ball foul.

Oh, and then he stared Tatum down afterwards.

😤#UtahJazzSLpic.twitter.com/JyczAu8sRf — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) July 7, 2017

So Jazz get the ball, and on the very next play, Tatum's now guarding Mitchell, determined to defend the man who had just wronged him. But Mitchell's physical spin move sends Tatum to the floor. Here's the part about this play I really love: the usual rookie move here is to take the open shot, drain it, and grab all of the glory for yourself. But Mitchell sees Julian Wright cutting, delivers the ball perfectly, and Wright demonstratively slams it home.

IT IS 🔥🔥🔥#UtahJazzSLpic.twitter.com/1FNoUjQLyV — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) July 7, 2017

Okay, hold on, I have to actively stop myself from going insanely overboard about Mitchell. He was 3-of-9 Thursday night and again took some very bad shots: an emotional pull-up three in transition that wasn't the right move, and some bad dribble moves leading to a pull-up that he'll make like, 20 percent of the time. Anything that he has to create for himself is going to be a work in progress.

But his defense is otherworldly. That 6-foot-10 wingspan allowed him to really bother Tatum, even though Tatum has five inches of height on Mitchell. And Mitchell's new at this: "To be honest, until the combine, I didn't really notice it. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm using it and playing to my strengths."

What strengths they are. Mitchell's going to be a rotation player in the NBA in his rookie season. He might be more in the future. We'll see what happens in even more playing time, when Dante Exum stays in Salt Lake City while Mitchell travels to Vegas.

2. Nigel Williams-Goss struggles

Nigel Williams-Goss only found himself with 11 minutes and 44 seconds of playing time Thursday, but didn't do too well with it, going 0-4 from the field and picking up four fouls. He also turned the ball over twice, compared to just one assist.

That comes after a better, but still average-ish performance from the Jazz's second-round draft pick on Wednesday, when he scored nine points in 22 minutes on the floor.

Honestly, the biggest worrying moment in both games has come in transition, when Williams-Goss had breakaway layups, but each time, slowed down and allowed his layups to get blocked. He either needs to be dunking those balls, laying them up more quickly, or just passing to trailing teammates in those circumstances.

There's an idea that four-year college players are more ready for the NBA game, and there's probably some truth to that. But I wonder if four-year players are more adapted to the unique aspects of the college game: the lack of spacing, the type of refereeing, etc., than younger prospects. That might make a transition to pro play more difficult.

Williams-Goss wasn't very concerned when I spoke to him about it after the game, saying that he's excited for the opportunity to get more playing time in Vegas and show what he can do then.

By the way, I also asked him about his plans for the season, whether he plans to go overseas or play with the Stars, or go into training camp. He confirmed that that has yet to be determined by the Jazz, given the tumultuous nature of their offseason. They probably want to see what he can do in these summer league games, too.

3. Atmosphere is great at the Utah Jazz Summer League

This was always going to be the biggest matchup in this 3-day competition, and it's probably no accident the schedule saved the best for last. The Jazz fans brought it against new rivals in Boston, booing the likes of Jabari Bird and Scott Wood as they took the court, due to the colors of their jerseys.

But that's not all. Both Mitchell and Exum received "M-V-P" chants from the crowd when they went to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and standing ovations were given as the Jazz made their fourth-quarter comeback. Standing ovations! In summer league!

I don't really get why teams go to the Orlando Summer League, a dreary affair that's not open to the public (only media and basketball executives can attend) and causes even hardcore basketball watchers to snooze after prolonged exposure to NBATV. Seeing how players perform when the crowd is on their backs rooting for or against them in clutch moments is interesting, and possibly even good practice for such moments in the future.

I get that throwing an event with fans is hard and there are logistical problems you have to worry about and everything else. But if the Jazz are taking care of that, who cares? Thursday night, 8,193 people came to cheer a summer league game, and they went home extremely satisfied.

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