Donovan Mitchell Drops 33 as Jazz Crush Lonzo Ball, Lakers Without LeBron James

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 12, 2019

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) directs his teammates during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic Wednesday, Jan., 9, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Donovan Mitchell had 33 points and nine assists, and Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 18 rebounds, helping the Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-95 on Friday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.

Lonzo Ball struggled with seven points (3-of-13 shooting), seven rebounds and six assists for the 23-20 Lakers. The Jazz improved to 22-21.

Los Angeles was without LeBron James, who suffered a groin injury on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors and has been out since. The Lakers are just 3-6 with him sidelined.

      

Jazz Can Make Second-Half Run with Mitchell Running Show

The Jazz never trailed all game, and Mitchell was the primary reason why.

The second-year pro played at a faster speed than anyone else as he created havoc on both ends. That fact was evident when he rose for a poster dunk over 7-foot Lakers center JaVale McGee:

Mitchell took over at point guard with starter Ricky Rubio out because of a hamstring strain, and he dominated.

He routinely found his teammates for crisp passes, and Dave McMenamin of ESPN took notice:

The ex-University of Louisville star also had the ball on a string as he was equally adept at creating space for outside jumpers as well as points in the paint:

Mitchell has struggled at times this season and was shooting just 41.4 percent from the field entering Friday. Ben Dowsett of The Athletic provided a theory explaining why Mitchell thrived against the Lakers, though:

Earlier this week, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News offered another point of praise:

Although the observations are different, one can put two and two together: Mitchell may be best for Utah at point guard.

On Wednesday, the Jazz beat the Orlando Magic 106-93. Mitchell scored 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting and added seven assists sans Rubio.

In fairness to Rubio, he was a significant reason why Utah was able to make the second round of the playoffs last year despite losing franchise player Gordon Hayward to free agency in the summer of 2017. The team also struggled without Rubio (left hamstring injury) in the second round against the Houston Rockets, and the Jazz lost the series in five games.

Mitchell assumed more point guard duties in the conference semifinals, but the results were mixed. The then-rookie averaged 19.4 points per game on 36 percent shooting. He did dish 6.0 assists per contest but also averaged 3.2 turnovers.

Circumstances might be different now. Mitchell has learned from that experience and adjusted his game, which he spoke about after Friday's shootaround, per Aaron Falk of the team's official website:

"The Houston series really taught me a lot. I understand how to do both [score and distribute] without thinking how to do both. I'm just going to be myself, clear my head and not really overthink what I'm doing. ... It's just kind of understanding the game, understanding where I'm getting my looks, understanding where I can get guys open, understanding how teams are playing me."

Granted, the Jazz have played the 17-24 Orlando Magic and a Lakers team sans LeBron in their last two games, but they crushed their competition and looked more energetic on both ends.

Rubio provides a lot between his ball-handling, distribution and defensive skills. However, the Jazz may be best served by putting Mitchell at the point. If they do that and resemble their recent form in the second half, then a playoff berth should follow.

                                                                    

What's Next?

Utah will host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET, and the Lakers will return home to Staples Center to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

Zach Lowe was the guest on the latest edition of The Full 48 podcast and spoke about the Lakers and much more. To hear the Lakers discussion, jump to 31:26.

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