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SALT LAKE CITY — A slightly disappointed Donovan Mitchell slapped his hands together and cursed as he exited the game.
"I wanted 40," said Mitchell with a smile. "It was no secret, I wanted it. It didn't happen."
He was pretty darn close, too.
Mitchell returned from a lower back strain to score a season-high 39 points in a 120-108 win over Minnesota Friday at Vivint Arena. Mitchell was 12 of 21 from the field, made six 3-pointers and added six rebounds and five assists in the win.
It was one of Mitchell's best games of the season — not just as a scorer but from a playmaking standpoint — and it came when the Jazz sorely needed it.
Utah got a little taste of what many teams in the league have been dealing with over the past couple weeks.
No, the Jazz didn't get hit with any COVID-19 cases, but they were short handed. Mike Conley sat out to rest ahead of Utah's anticipated matchup with Golden State on Saturday, Joe Ingles missed the game with a lower back strain, and Hassan Whiteside went out with a concussion in the first half.
Suddenly, the Jazz were down three key rotation players, and in the third quarter it showed. Without Whiteside, Utah was forced to go small and the Timberwolves attacked the rim relentlessly to storm back from 13 down to take a 1-point lead.
"They got hot quickly, and then they started hitting a bunch of shots from the 3 and the mid range," Mitchell said.
Anthony Edwards scored 26 points and Malik Beasley added 22 points for the Timberwolves.
It got so bad the Jazz burned through timeout after timeout and had just one left with 3:41 left in the third quarter. In a close game, that could have proven to be very detrimental.
Thanks to Mitchell, though, it didn't end up being close.
He was able to get inside and muscle in layups, went 6 of 11 from 3-point range, and was in full control of the offense with both Conley and Ingles out.
"We made it too easy for them — credit to us for stepping our level up and picking it back up," Mitchell said.
With the Wolves leading 92-91 with 10:47 left in the game, the Jazz went on a 22-0 run. Mitchell got inside and finished through contact, Gobert was a dominant force on defense and Bojan Bogdanovic hit two 3-pointers during the run that lasted for over five minutes.
"We were able to run out and get some things in transition," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Bojan always seems to hit a big 3 when we need it. But really, to me, our defense in the fourth quarter really picked up."
The 22-0 run actually ended with a Minnesota free throw when a technical foul was called on Gobert. The Jazz held the Wolves without a field goal for more than six minutes in the fourth quarter.
Bogdanovic finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Jazz, and Gobert had 14 points and 16 rebounds as the Jazz won their sixth straight. Utah has now won 14 of its last 16 games.
As for Mitchell, he scored 14 of his season-high 39 points in the fourth quarter as he led the pivotal run.
He wished he would have had 15 to close things out. After all, 40 sounds so much better than 39.
"If I make a free throw — there you go," he said with a shrug. "So that's really on me at that point."