SALT LAKE CITY — As Donovan Mitchell left the floor following Utah’s 119-107 loss to Denver in Game 6, he grabbed the handle of a stationary bike and pulled it down in frustration.
One week ago, the Jazz went up 3-1 in the series behind a scintillating 51-point performance from Mitchell. At that point, the Jazz were widely pronounced the presumed victors of the first-round series and it was being seen as a coronation to Mitchell’s rise to superstardom.
A week later, that moment felt like a lifetime ago. Since then, there have been two losses in games Utah feels it could have won, and Mitchell's coronation has turned into Jamal Murray's. In the playoffs, a game can change everything. Mitchell and the Jazz have the chance to flip the narrative back.
“We're just pissed off because that was a winnable game,” Mitchell said. “No one's down at all. We got one more game. If we are down now, then we've already lost Game 7. I don't think anybody's down. I think pissed would be the right word.”
It was a fiery response from a player who is on the verge of making history. Mitchell has scored 232 points in the series and needs just 10 points to pass LeBron James for most points ever scored in a first-round playoff series (241). And, if Mitchell does what he’s already done twice in the series (drop 50-plus), he might just catch Elgin Baylor’s record for most points in any series at 284.
But instead of the chance to make history, Mitchell would have preferred to be preparing for how he was going to score in the next round against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We felt like we could have had this series but (the Nuggets) fought,” Mitchell said. “They didn't want to go home and now we got to play like we don't want to go home and I think that's gonna be the biggest thing.”
Mitchell spoke like he didn’t want to go home following the loss. And he played like it in the game, too. He dropped 44 points on Sunday, hit nine 3s, and had five assists. It’s a stat line that in any other series would have made headlines. In this one, which has included two of the all-time best individual series performances, it barely registered a shrug.
What will be needed from him in Game 7? It was a question the Jazz probably didn’t think they would need to be asking.
“We had two opportunities to close it out and we lost two games,” Rudy Gobert said. “But it's a new game. Every day is a new opportunity to accomplish something. We were kind of the underdog from the start. So, if you would have told us we were going to have an opportunity to go to Game 7, we’d take it.”
They get that chance now. And Mitchell even said he was ready to play that game immediately following the contest. He wanted to atone for the mistakes he had made — a missed box, a bad pass in the 4th, throwing the ball away to Mason Plumlee, etc. (he chose not to go in on his teammates' shortcomings Sunday) — right then and there.
He'll get the chance on Tuesday.
“There were things we (could have done) to win this game,” Mitchell said. “We’re more motivated for the next game. No one said it was going to be easy. At the end of the day, they came back, give credit to them. But no one's down. We're ready to go.”