When Donovan Mitchell walked off the court last night following Utah's stunning loss to New Orleans, the look on his face said it all.
It wasn't anger in his eyes — it was disbelief and disappointment. He reiterated as much during his postgame press conference, constantly shaking his head when looking at the box score.
"Let's be honest, teams are coming at me defensively. ... I'm not sneaking up on people," Mitchell said Friday night. "This is not a reflection of what I do and how hard I work, this is a test of character. I'm not going to let this deter me from what I've been doing, but in the same token, I've just got to be better."
In Saturday's rematch with the Pelicans, Mitchell held true to his word.
In what can be deemed Utah's best performance of the season, Mitchell finished with a near triple-double as the Jazz bounced back with a vengeance to take down New Orleans 127-105.
"Things that were different tonight than last night are things that we need to have focus on and continue to make them important no matter who we're playing," head coach Quin Snyder said postgame. "I think everybody was focused on the details of the game that could help the team. … Our focus was on the group."
In just 27 minutes of action, Mitchell finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. His ability to get to the rim was evident, and his pull-up three-pointer off the screen. He went entirely into his bag of tricks against the Pelicans, finishing with a +25 rating.
In his first time playing back-to-back games this season, Mike Conley finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Starting in place of the injured Royce O'Neale, Joe Ingles added 15 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
Utah put on a clinic on offense, shooting 56.3% (45-for-80) from the field and 57.1% (20-for-35) from beyond the arc. Seven players finished in double figures scoring, with five of them having at least three three-pointers in the game.
"We've had games where we would do it for a couple of possessions but, when we're really good, we do it for a whole game," Conley said about sharing the ball. "I think everybody kind of fed off each other. To see it happen tonight against a team that gave us problems the night before, it was encouraging and hopefully we take a lesson from that."
The bench was sensational for the Jazz, with Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay, and Hassan Whiteside combing for 43 points.
Clarkson finished with 20 points and a +35 rating, while Whiteside added 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Gay's addition to the team has been a welcome sight, and he showed once again how valuable he's going to be moving forward. The versatile veteran added 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, finishing with a +32 rating in just 23 minutes of action.
"He's really really good," Clarkson said of his new teammate. "We saw him today a lot in the post makings some plays, spreading the floor as well."
After Friday night's debacle in which the Jazz failed to put New Orleans away when they had the chance, they wasted no time in doing so on Saturday.
After Devonte' Graham — Friday's hero for the Pelicans — opened the game with a bucket, Rudy Gobert and Conley had back-to-back layups as Utah would never trail again. They went on a 22-6 run midway through the quarter to lead by 14 at the end of the first.
The Jazz expanded that lead in the second quarter as the second unit jump-started a 12-0 run, pushing their advantage to 29 at one point. The Pelicans used a mini-rally late to cut into the deficit, but Utah still went into the half up 64-45.
There would be no letting up on Saturday, as the Jazz came out with a vengeance in the third quarter to put the nails in the coffin. They outscored New Orleans by 10 in the quarter, with Conley knocking down a couple of three-pointers and a Bogdanovic-to-Mitchell dunk serving as the primary highlights.
With the game firmly intact, Snyder elected to pull his starters as nobody played more than 27 minutes — an excellent sign for a team prioritizing health playing in a back-to-back.
"We talked about the difference between being self-centered and selfish. … We're not a selfish team," Snyder said. "I think we as people can have that; that's our nature to think about ourselves. Tonight we were thinking about our teammate, thinking about the team. … The whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
Utah next returns to action on Monday night when it hosts Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST.