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LAS VEGAS — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 84-81 summer league overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Donovan Mitchell's record-setting scoring performance
Donovan Mitchell is the talk of the NBA. After taking Sunday's game off to rest, he came back Tuesday with abandon, picking up 37 points in the Jazz's loss.
I was a little bit worried about Mitchell's inefficiency on the Jazz's first game of the Las Vegas summer league, going 8-26 and scoring 19 points. On Tuesday, though, Mitchell was much smarter about the kinds of shots that he took. He went to the free throw line 16 times during the game, making 14.
"Fourteen free throws, that's big for him," Jazz summer league head coach Zach Guthrie said. "Not settling. I was getting on him (before Tuesday) for pulling up for the jumper and maybe he could get in the paint and find someone else, do something else. Force the defense to collapse or react to him in some way before he goes to the jump shot."
The jump shot was a little bit more inconsistent, with Mitchell making three of 10 3-point shots. But two of those shots were forced end-of-quarter looks, so it looks a little bit worse than it was. For the most part, Mitchell lived in the paint and at the free-throw line.
The change in approach allowed Mitchell to score more than he ever did in college, where his career high was 29 points. Thirty-seven points is also more than any other player has put up so far in summer league play, especially impressive given that the games are only 40 minutes.
"He's able to show more here than he was at Louisville," Guthrie said. "Maybe it's the NBA-style spacing and pick-and-roll game rather than the tighter confines and handchecking in college."
Again, people around the league are getting very excited about Mitchell. He signed a multi-year shoe deal with Adidas, another sign that he's arrived in the league.
"His path in the NBA is inexorable," Guthrie said. "I don't know what his upside is, but his ability to work gives him a chance. He's going to get the most out of what he is."
2. Mitchell is gambling for steals ... and winning
As good as Mitchell was on the offensive end, his defense was probably better. He picked up eight steals, all in the first three quarters, and told us after the game he was disappointed he didn't get 10.
Mitchell gets his steals in a variety of ways. There are times when he just rips or tips the ball away from the ballhandler he's guarding and makes it his own. This steal, defending in transition, is a very excellent play.
The pass afterward is great too! I'm trying not to look too much at Mitchell's assist totals here because he's being robbed of them by mediocre teammates around him.
I'm not really convinced those opportunities will be there against NBA starting talent. Probably against bench players, who Mitchell will be against first, but not against the elite. In general, the best guards in the league are just better at preventing turnovers than this.
Another way he gets steals is by gambling on the perimeter, figuring out what the other team will do and just getting there first. Coaches don't generally love this kind of gambling, but Mitchell's been so effective at it that it pays off overall. It even fits a team need.
"This past year, we were a good defensive team, but we were a containment defensive team," Guthrie said. "We weren't a team that generated a lot of turnovers. For us to infuse Donovan Mitchell into that with his length and his skills is really something interesting."
As Guthrie explained, "One of the things that he does that a lot of guys don't do in this league is that as he cuts through the defense to the weak side, he maintains vision of the ball." That skill should translate to the NBA, which will help the Jazz.
It also may help the Jazz with their offense. The big question without Gordon Hayward on the roster is how will the Jazz score the ball? The defense should be as good as before, but the offense will need help. One source of that help might come from forcing more turnovers, thus getting out in transition more. That's especially true with Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, and Mitchell on the team, all transition-oriented guards.
3. Joel Bolomboy goes down
Joel Bolomboy left the game in the fourth quarter with a right knee sprain after falling on a wet spot on the court.
The good news is that Bolomboy was up and walking around after the game with no ice and no brace on his knee. That being said, I expect the Jazz to be more safe than sorry with Bolomboy's injury, and I'd be surprised if he played for the rest of the summer league, which figures to be over for the Jazz soon anyway.
By the way, since the Jazz went 0-3 in Las Vegas play, they didn't receive a bye to the second round, which means they'll play Wednesday. The exact time of their game has yet to be determined. We'll update this article when the schedule is announced late Tuesday.
Update: The Jazz are playing the Phoenix Suns Wednesday at 6 p.m. MT.