Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — A Minnesota fan made the most of his courtside seat.
As Donovan Mitchell had some rough moments to start Utah’s 103-95 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday in Minnesota, that fan started chirping.
“He was just saying something along the lines of I'm not a good basketball player,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell had a response.
With over three minutes remaining, Mitchell had such a quick crossover that Robert Covington couldn’t recover from getting screened and ended up on his backside. Mitchell gave him a quick stare before stepping back and drilling a 3.
Mitchell scored 26 points — with 11 coming in the fourth quarter — to help the Jazz come back for the win.
“I've had a few those (opposing fan encounters),” Mitchell said. “I enjoy it. I love it. I prefer it, to be honest with you. I think it's just one of those things you just have to have fun within the game and I thank him because I was kind of struggling, you know, turning the ball over, taking bad shots.”
Last season, Mitchell famously had a couple back-and-forths with a fan in Detroit that led to him dropping 24 second-half points in a Jazz win. It kick-started Mitchell that night — and might have just played a hand in the rest of the season, too. Mitchell averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 44.6% from the field and 41.4% from 3 after Jan. 1. That game in Detroit was on Jan. 5.
Maybe this time a heckling fan will help the Jazz offense as a whole. Utah came into Wednesday’s game with a 103.7 offensive rating, good enough for 25th in the league. In the fourth quarter on Wednesday, the Jazz had an offensive rating of 120.
“We touched it a little bit tonight — the way we can play,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We were able to generate some 3s. … I thought our guys responded when the game got close. In the end, I thought Mike (Conley) controlled the game. When he came back out there, he just had a presence, did a little bit of everything.”
As good as Mitchell’s crossover 3 was, it was far from the only highlight play of the night. In fact, it put a cap on a minute of basketball that likely resembled what so many fans thought this team would look like.
With 3:50 left to play, Mitchell bounced a pass to Conley in transition. Conley drove inside, looking like he was heading in for a layup. Instead, he threw a pass to Bojan Bogdanovic in the corner, who buried the 3.
With 3:35 left, Royce O’Neale stole the ball and passed it to Conley who stepped into and buried a pull-up transition 3.
With 3:04 left, Mitchell had his highlight-reel crossover.
Extra passes. Open looks. Everyone getting involved. This is what just about everyone imagined when Conley and Bogdanovic joined the team. The Jazz were 7 of 11 from 3 in the fourth quarter.
Bogdanovic scored nine of his 30 points in the final period, Conley had five points and five assists and Mitchell added his 11.
“I mean, it all started with us penetrating the lane and having eyes out and finding our shooters,” Jeff Green said. “We have shooters, they try to take away one thing — which is the lob to Rudy (Gobert) — and it leaves shooters open. Mike made two great passes; Bojan, Donovan made some clutch shots. It was big-time for us.”