Donovan Mitchell was great.
But he wasn’t perfect.
So, the Nuggets escaped with a 135-125 overtime win over the Jazz despite Mitchell scoring 57 points in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Monday.
Mitchell’s 57 points were the third-most in a postseason game in NBA history. Michael Jordan scored 63 against the Celtics in 1986, and Elgin Baylor scored 61 against the Celtics in 1962.
Yet, Mitchell committed a stunning eight-second violation with Utah up four and 1:46 left fourth quarter. Unpressured and calling out direction to his teammates while bringing the ball up court, Mitchell absentmindedly didn’t cross halfcourt quickly enough.
On the ensuing possession, Denver guard Jamal Murray hit a 3-pointer. That opened the floodgates.
After Mitchell’s eight-second violation:
- Jamal Murray: 18
- Utah Jazz: 16
Mitchell still scored 12 of those 16 Utah points. With the Jazz missing starters Bojan Bogdanovic (injury) and Mike Conley (birth of child), Mitchell was extremely aggressive in all facets of the game. He finished with nine rebounds, seven assists… and five turnovers
Undrafted rookie Juwan Morgan surprisingly started for Utah at power forward. He contributed positively defensively with his size and mobility. Though the Nuggets paid him little attention on the other end, the Jazz scored fine anyway – in large part because of Mitchell.
Mitchell was so explosive attacking the rim (8-for-10 at the rim, 13-for-13 on free throws) and hot from outside (6-of-13 on 3-pointers until forcing a couple late misses with the game practically decided).
But Murray (36 points and nine assists) made the clutch plays and had more help, especially from Nikola Jokic (29 points and 10 rebounds).
A high-quality NBA playoff game on an August weekday afternoon was a treat. These teams keep playing dramatic contests against each other. Hopefully, there will be more of this.