Donovan Mitchell Shines with 36 Points as Jazz Down Zion Williamson, Pelicans

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) defends against Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans were no match for the red-hot Utah Jazz this week.

Utah defeated the Pelicans 129-118 in Thursday's rematch at Vivint Smart Home Arena a mere two days after it won the same matchup by 16 points. Donovan Mitchell led the way in the latest effort with a brilliant performance, helping the Jazz improve to 11-4 on the season with their seventh consecutive win.

New Orleans is free-falling and dropped to 5-9 overall and 1-7 in its last eight games despite a solid showing from Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

         

Notable Player Stats

  • Donovan Mitchell, G, UTA: 36 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST
  • Mike Conley, G, UTA: 20 PTS, 6 AST, 3 STL
  • Rudy Gobert, C, UTA: 12 PTS, 11 REB, 4 BLK
  • Zion Williamson, F, NO: 27 PTS
  • Brandon Ingram, F, NO: 23 PTS

             

Donovan Mitchell Puts on a Show in Utah Victory

It's been the Mitchell show for the Jazz during their recent stretch of success.

He scored 26 or more points in five of his previous six games, including the 28 he scored in Tuesday's win against the Pelicans. It was more of the same out of the gates Thursday, as the Louisville product put up 13 points in the first quarter while connecting on three triples and breaking Nickeil Alexander-Walker's ankles on an assist.

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It wasn't all Mitchell, as Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang provided a spark off the bench while Bojan Bogdanovic got to the line by aggressively attacking the lane as Utah overcame an early double-digit deficit with impressive offensive efficiency.

Mitchell got into the act again right before halftime with an and-1 and three-pointer on back-to-back plays, and Utah took the lead into the half.

Halftime did nothing to cool him off, as he unleashed runners in the lane, drilled multiple triples and then whipped a perfect crosscourt one-handed pass to Royce O'Neale for a three when the defense collapsed on his ball-handling.

It was an offensive clinic that clearly frustrated the other side, and Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy was ejected in that third quarter for picking up a second technical foul. Throw in Jordan Clarkson carrying the offense for stretches when Mitchell was on the bench, and it seemed as if the Jazz couldn't be stopped.

Utah ended up with five players in double figures, as Mike Conley mixed in some floaters while setting up teammates, and Rudy Gobert completed a double-double by patrolling the paint. If the supporting cast continues to play well and Mitchell's hot streak is a sign of things to come, the Jazz could be legitimate threats in the Western Conference.

            

Brandon Ingram's Start, Zion's Performance Not Enough for Pelicans

The Pelicans were abysmal beyond the arc in Tuesday's loss at 6-of-26, which is a major reason they lost even with Williamson pouring in 32 points in a dominant offensive performance.

Ingram was clearly in no mood for a repeat performance from his team and went 4-of-4 from deep while pouring in 16 points in the first quarter alone. New Orleans made eight triples during that opening quarter, setting the tone with an offensive blitz that was missing in the previous loss.

The shooting was also key because it prevented the Jazz from sagging too many defenders into the lane when Williamson had the ball.

For as encouraging as the start was on the offensive side, the defense was nowhere to be found. That allowed the Jazz to overcome Ingram's blistering start and take the lead into intermission, which was surely discouraging for the Pelicans after playing at such a higher level on one end of the floor.

That defense had no answer for Mitchell, and New Orleans fell behind by double digits when Ingram was unable to maintain his initial pace throughout the middle portion of the game.

Williamson kept the visitors within striking distance by overpowering most of the defenders Utah threw at him, but they needed more firepower to counter their own defensive shortcomings and even the secondary scorers around Mitchell.

It was missing after the opening quarter, and the Pelicans' descent down the standings continued.

         

What's Next? 

Both teams are in action Saturday when the Jazz host the Golden State Warriors and the Pelicans travel to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.