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'This is who he is': Donovan Mitchell playing at elite level as Jazz roll to 5th-straight win



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

MINNEAPOLIS — Donovan Mitchell didn't want to prematurely call it a turning point.

Yes, the loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 26 looked like rock bottom for the Utah Jazz. And yes, it looked like the Jazz had responded appropriately. But one or two wins? That wasn't enough to know for sure they had righted the ship.

How about five straight with wins over multiple top 10 defenses?

On Wednesday, the Jazz continued their winning streak with their most dominant performance of the season. Utah waxed Minnesota — the team that swept the Jazz in the regular season last year — to the tune of 136-104 at Target Center.

It's getting more clear the Jazz have turned the corner.

"Guys are getting used to playing with one another," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

They're already used to playing with Mitchell, so much so that his current scintillating run is almost what they expect. Mitchell is fresh off being named the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging a cool 33 points over the last week. Against the Wolves, he looked poised to be in contention for another one.

Mitchell dropped 17 points in the first quarter, another 12 in the third and finished with 36 on the night.

"I mean, I'm used to it," Royce O'Neale said. "I mean, some of the things he does, some of the plays he makes — he's a special talent. I think he's only gonna keep getting better, and he wants his team to get better."

Mitchell was 14 of 23 from the field and 9 of 11 from inside the arc. He can shoot the heck out of the ball when he's on, but the key to his current run — Wednesday was the fourth straight 30-point game — has been how he's attacked the rim.

He was clever on drives and used an array of spin moves, euro steps and crossover to get to his spots Wednesday. He's no longer driving inside without a plan or forcing runs to the rim — just about everything is a well-thought action. Everything has slowed down recently and he's been one step ahead of the defense — actually, he was a couple steps ahead of the Wolves.

"I think the pace is different," he said.

Before there were some drives that you could call "erratic" and there were simple things that he was able to clean up. Now, he's just feeling where the opportunities are in the game.

"He's just just being aggressive," Bojan Bogdanovic said. "He saw a couple shots going in and now he's full of confidence. We know how good he is. I mean, this is who he is. He's been playing at a high level for four years."

So it's no longer a surprise to anyone, but it is still downright effective.

"He's had a good mix," Snyder said of Mitchell. "He's spacing well off the ball, so he's getting more catch-and-shoot 3s, and then he's been getting to the rim. When he can get to the rim like that, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense."

That leads to opportunities for everyone else, too.

The Jazz had six players score in double figures Wednesday. Bogdanovic had 21 points, Jordan Clarkson had 18 points and Rudy Gobert had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double.

In typical Snyder fashion, the Jazz coach pointed toward the other side of the ball, as well. Yes, Mitchell is scoring in ways that look effortless, but his effort on defense has also been worthy of praise.

"When you score like that you can impact the game that way, but being able to impact on both ends is something we've talked about a lot and I know he is taking a lot of pride in," Snyder said.

The Jazz, who for so many years have relied heavily on Gobert's presence down low to provide defensive consistency, have now played back-to-back games that have included extended runs with a small lineup that's thrived.

In fact, it was that lineup that blew the game open on Wednesday. Gobert was forced to the bench after picking up his fourth foul at the 10:38 mark of the third quarter. With Rudy Gay in as a small-ball center, the Jazz went on a 16-5 run.

That was the beginning of the end for the Timberwolves, and the continuation of Utah's best stretch of the season.

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