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Donovan Mitchell scores 17 in first scrimmage, but Utah Jazz still 'trying to find their rhythm' in loss to Phoenix
ORLANDO • The video boards flashed brilliant colors. The PA announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. But there was no applause as the home team trotted onto the court and into layup lines on Thursday night. It felt unnatural—all at once too surreal and too serene—to Mike Conley.
Fifteen minutes later, at center court, Conley started to feel normal again.
“Once the ball was tipped off, I think, this is basketball,” the Utah Jazz guard said.
Finishing out the 2019-20 season inside the bubble of the NBA’s campus in Florida will require all sorts of adjustments. After a 101-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, the first of three intersquad scrimmages for the Jazz, Conley, and his teammates were glad to be back those adjustments on the court.
“It’s good to be back,” Conley said. “We’ve missed it.”
The exhibition will give Jazz head coach Quin Snyder plenty to consider as he prepares his team for the season’s restart on July 30, and the postseason action that will tip off just two weeks later.
“I think our guys played their way into the game a little bit, which we can’t do. We’ve got to come out with more aggression defensively,” Snyder said. “But again, I think there’s going to be plenty of things for us to watch on the film. It’s the first time that we’ve had a chance to play and compete against another team. That’s the opportunity right now. We got to learn and got to and we can focus on some of those things now that you don’t have a chance to do in practice. You can talk about them, you can work on them, but until you get into a game and you’re competing, it doesn’t resonate sometimes as much until you play somebody.”
With the ball in his hands, Donovan Mitchell looked like Donovan Mitchell. The All-Star guard finished with 17 points, four rebounds, and an assist on Thursday.
“Sometimes, you know for me, it’s just a comfort thing, to be able to knock down shots. It’s easy when you make your first two,” Mitchell said.
But there were long stretches Thursday during which the team struggled to find itself. Part of that was no doubt due to rest. The team, meanwhile, is still figuring out how to play without forward Bojan Bogdanovic, the 20-point per game scorer who is out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury.
“I think there were some guys just trying to find their rhythm,” Mitchell said. “I talked to Mike and I said, ‘Look, there’s kind of times you’re going to feel like Bojan is right there, and he’s not, and I think that’s the biggest thing you have to adjust to.’”
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds.
“In the pick-and-roll, they took away Rudy’s roll, which is a good job by them, so I think it’s on us to find the guy in the corner,” Mitchell said. “Then it came to the guys shifting off the high quadrants, being able to find that. Then a lot of times, being able to just shoot the ball. We were so focused on trying to get into the paint to make the right pass. [We] should be able to knock shots down. In the second half, Mike came out strong. We all came out strong, but sometimes it takes a little bit.”
The Jazz are scheduled to practice Friday night to prepare for their second scrimmage, a Saturday afternoon matchup with the Miami Heat.