Donovan Mitchell had the ball in his hands.
Clock winding down.
A chance to deliver the dagger.
And when the ball bounced off his leg and rolled out of bounds, another miscue on a difficult night for the young Utah Jazz guard, Joe Ingles was there with a hand underneath Mitchell’s chin to make sure it didn’t drop.
“Next play,” Ingles told him.
No time to worry about the past.
There’s a game to win.
After Wednesday night, that’s exactly what Mitchell planned to do. The Jazz came through with a 108-103 victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. But there was plenty of postgame attention on Mitchell, following a 5-for-26 performance from the field.
“It’s over,” said Mitchell, who finished with 17 points. “I don’t even care no more. I’m over it.”
A season ago, on a night like this one, Mitchell might have made the slow walk from the shower to his locker with his head down. But not now. The Utah Jazz guard missed 21 of the 26 field goals he attempted. He smiled and laughed as he made his way in front of the cameras after Wednesday’s game.
“I had a whole 90-something games to go through and understand that we’ve got another game in two days,” he said. “And the fact that we won. It’s not like we lost. We won the game. At the end of the day, I’m not going to hang my head over this.
“I’m not upset. We won the game. I think that’s the story.”
Mitchell’s 5-for-26 night was just the 11th time a player had made five or fewer field goals on at least 26 attempts, according to Basketball-Reference.com. That list is filled with notable names: Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Bob Cousy, Elgin Baylor. Still, Mitchell knows will hear about it from the outside, he said, from “the Twitter general managers and coaches”.
“That’s all I’ve been hearing, including from my mom,” he said with a laugh. “My mom is funny. Did you hear this? Did you hear that? Yeah, I heard it all.”
But Mitchell is letting it go in one ear and out the other.
Inside the Jazz locker room, the messages for Mitchell were positive.
“I don’t think in any way we’re worried about him,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “He knows what we need from him. We need him to score. He didn’t have a good shooting night, but he kept playing. That’s what we need from our group, the resiliency that we have to have collectively and individually. It’s not about one guy. You have to find your confidence within the team. That’s what he did tonight.”
Snyder praised Mitchell’s defense.
“There were some great possessions where he was locked in and chasing guys all over the floor,” the coach said. “When the ball’s not going in, that’s one of the things you can do to help your team.
Mitchell, meanwhile, was looking elsewhere on his stat line.
“The fact that I had six assists is what I’m happy with,” Mitchell said. “At the end of the day, I try my best to take certain shots. It just didn’t fall.”
Mitchell listed off his teammates by name for their contributions in Utah’s win over the Warriors. There was Ingles with a game-high 20 points, Jae Crowder with five big 3-pointers, a double-double for Rudy Gobert and 12 points off the bench from Kyle Korver.
“It’s big time,” Mitchell said. “We got them back for when they beat us here the first time. So for us to go out there and beat them is big time, but we have to have that same energy when we play Portland next."