Mitchell propels Jazz into meeting with Lakers
When Donovan Mitchell flips the switch, there are few NBA teams that can turn it off again. Mitchell has been "on" for the Utah Jazz in January.
Mitchell, through the first five games of the month, is averaging 24.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds. The second-year guard is shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range (16 of 34) in that stretch, which is going a long way to helping the Jazz overcome the absence of injured point guards Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum heading into Friday's home game with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mitchell turned in one of his best all-around performances of the season in rallying Utah to a 106-93 victory over Orlando on Wednesday. He scored 33 points -- his fifth 30-plus game of the season -- on 12-of-21 shooting and matched his season-high with seven assists.
Mitchell's efforts helped the Jazz rally from a 21-point first-half deficit.
"My biggest thing is not to change the mindset, just because we're down two point guards," Mitchell told reporters after the game. "Just being aggressive and making the right reads. That's what I've been doing and that's what I'm going to continue to do."
As good as Mitchell is playing, the Jazz will need to get production from third-string point guard Raul Neto to keep going while Rubio recovers from a hamstring strain and Exum deals with an ankle sprain. Neto made his first start of the season against the Magic, responding with 10 points, three assists and three rebounds in 30 minutes.
He showed a steady hand in guiding the offense, which is exactly what Utah wants from Neto.
"He was engaged. That's what we expect from Raul," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
The Lakers are also searching for ways to stay afloat as LeBron James remains sidelined with a groin strain.
James will not travel to Utah. He was evaluated by team medical staff and physicians on Thursday, when the team announced James has been cleared to increase on-court functional basketball movements. The Lakers are scheduled to provide another update Wednesday.
Just like with Utah, younger players are stepping up to propel Los Angeles to success.
Brandon Ingram scored a season-high 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting to help the Lakers beat Dallas 107-97 on Monday. That marked the most points the third-year pro has scored in regulation in an NBA game.
Then, Kyle Kuzma dropped a career-high 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting in only three quarters to power the Lakers past Detroit 113-100 on Wednesday.
Since returning from a seven-game absence because of a sprained ankle, Ingram has averaged 18.4 points over his last 11 games. Kuzma has been electric as well.
The second-year forward averaged 22.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in December. So far, in January, Kuzma is averaging 19.3 points on 44 percent shooting despite missing two games with a lower-back injury.
"I know I'm a great shooter," Kuzma said. "My percentage may not reflect that (in some games), but I'm always confident in shooting. I'm always in the gym just trying to continue to put work in every single day."
This is the second meeting of the season between the Jazz and Lakers. Los Angeles beat Utah 90-83 on Nov. 23 after the Jazz swept the 2017-18 season series. James paced the Lakers with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Ingram added 24 points for Los Angeles in the victory.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2019