SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell had a quick response when he was asked about his improved 3-point accuracy.
“It’s about damn time,” he said.
Over his last four games, Mitchell has been shooting 53 percent from behind the 3-point line. It’s helped take his offensive game to a new level with him scoring 26 or more points in three of those contests. And it’s not just a case of the shots finally starting to go in, either. He’s taking better shots.
Actually, Mitchell is starting to make better decisions, in general.
Mitchell recalled one shot he attempted on Evan Fournier during Utah’s 106-93 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Fournier had guarded him well and the shot wasn’t open, but he took it anyway. It was also one of the few his missed.
“The shot I took on Evan Fournier and missed it short, those were the 3s I was taking pretty much all year,” Mitchell said. “Now I’m trying to get it easier looks and make it easier on myself, and I think that’s where it starts.”
Mitchell went 4-for-7 against the Magic — with a couple of them serving as dagger shots to Orlando’s chances. But for much of the year, Mitchell has struggled from deep. Even with his recent surge, he is only shooting 31 percent on the year on nearly seven attempts per game. But Mitchell believes the recent trend is sustainable.
“It’s just confidence,” he said. “That’s the biggest things. It’s taking better 3s.”
Mitchell didn’t just take better 3s on Wednesday — he made better reads, too. Well, at least in the second half. The Jazz’s massive switch from being head-scratchingly bad to elite-level good in the second half was also seen in Mitchell’s play individually.
In the opening quarter, when the Magic jumped up big on the Jazz, Mitchell was anything but a willing passer. He missed Rudy Gobert rolling to the hoop and open guys in the corner as he drove into the lane for contested shots.
In the second half, though, that all changed. Mitchell wasn’t just a scorer, he was a playmaker. And a really good one at that. He swung passes from all over the court. He didn’t settle for contested runners or deep 3s. Mitchell played as if he knew where the Magic defenders were going to be long before they got there.
“I think it was probably his best game this year finding his teammates and making the right decisions,” Gobert said of Mitchell. “When he does that, he’s really hard to defend.”
Mitchell finished with 7 assists to go along with his 33 points.
“Just let it come and be natural,” Mitchell said. “Film work has been heavy since the Christmas game.”
Mitchell might have just got some extra prep work for some of his new responsibilities now that Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum are both out with injuries. With Raul Neto the only healthy point guard on the Jazz roster, some of the point duties will fall to Mitchell. It’s not something that is terribly foreign to him — the Jazz used him at point guard at times last season — but has been more uncommon this year.
“Letting it come,” Mitchell said. “Not really thinking I have to pass, pass, pass. That’s when you miss open shots and vice verse, you miss open passes.
In the second half, he let it come. And Mitchell didn’t miss many open short — or open passes.