Donovan Mitchell's late runner lifts Jazz over Thunder

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SALT LAKE CITY — The best news about Monday was the fact the Utah Jazz, at long last, played a game in Oklahoma City.

But Donovan Mitchell's late-game heroics were a close second.

Mitchell hit a running floater with seven seconds remaining in regulation to give the Jazz a 110-109 win over the Thunder in the team's first return trip to OKC since March 11 — the day Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

The Jazz were led by Bojan Bogdanovic's 23 points and Mike Conley's near triple-double effort of 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

But at the end, it was Utah's newly maxed-out star that delivered.

On Utah's final possession, Mitchell pulled his dribble out away from the 3-point line and quickly attacked. He got by Oklahoma City's Luguentz Dort, the man who had caused him headaches for much of the night, and banked home the game-deciding bucket.

It was the final touch to a strong performance by Mitchell, who scored the Jazz's final 12 points to help in the come-from-behind win. But the ending came after he struggled for much of the night against Dort.

"Anytime (you play) somebody that physical, that quick and that determined, it's going to be hard," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said of Dort's defense on Mitchell. "I thought Donovan did a better job of trying to set up and get help and using screens in pick and roll and just kind of take what they give you. He started taking this pull up from three. And I think that a lot of them also to get to the rim. That's the idea — to get better as the game goes on and he came up big at the end."

In the final minutes, it was Mitchell vs. Dort with the game in the balance. With over two minutes remaining and the Jazz up two, Mitchell tried to shake Dort on a drive, but was forced into setting for a midrange contested jumper — it missed. Then, after Dort buried his fifth 3-pointer of the night to give the Thunder a 5-point lead with just over a minute remaining, Mitchell tried a step-back three over the Thunder's premier defender — it also missed.

But after that, Dort couldn't stop Mitchell three straight times down the stretch.

"The biggest thing is just staying the course throughout the entire game," said Mitchell, who finished with 20 points and five assists. "There are shots that I missed that I feel like I could make. I think that's just staying the course and staying with it."

Even in victory, the Jazz weren't necessarily happy with the way they played. For the second straight contest, Utah came out with low energy and low execution. Things were easy for the Thunder, who led by 12 points early in the first quarter and scored 35 points in the third quarter.

"There were stretches we just really didn't play well," Snyder said. " … I don't feel like we played our best, but that's the challenge — figuring out how to win when you're not at your best."

The Jazz needed an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead late, and also may have gotten a little help after a collision between a Thunder player and Bogdanovic.

"Someone hit me pretty well in my wrist, and after that, I started playing well, so maybe I needed that," Bogdanovic said.

He scored 14 points in the third quarter to help jumpstart what had been a sluggish offense.

And when it comes to finding ways to win, the Jazz still had Gobert, who finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four blocks. On the game's final possession, Gobert showed every bit of why the Jazz value him so highly.

After deterring a drive from Al Horford, Gobert got switched onto the speedy Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just inside the 3-point line. That may have seemed like a matchup that favored OKC — it wasn't. Gilgeous-Alexander couldn't get around Gobert and was forced to put up a scooping layup attempt from outside the paint as the clock expired. It came up well short.

"I mean there's a narrative that I can't guard on the perimeter, but the numbers prove every year that it's not true," Gobert said.

And the final numbers proved that on Monday: Jazz 110, Thunder 109.

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