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Mr Mitchell is quite the menace


WHEN the Utah Jazz gave Sydney Kings a 108-83 touch-up in their NBA-NBL pre-season game last year, Donovan Mitchell stood out as a kid with real pluck.

Athletic, aggressive and fearless, he immediately showed the potential that suggested in any other debut year when Ben Simmons wasn’t playing, he would have been an automatic lock for NBA Rookie of the Year.

SIGN OF THINGS TO COME: Donovan Mitchell drives around Sydney's Amritpal Singh.

He has been a monumental factor in Utah Jazz’s elimination of Oklahoma City Thunder’s failed attempt at a “Big 3” when the franchise added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to its triple-double freak Russell Westbrook.

Throw in the pragmatic Kiwi man-beast Steven Adams in the middle - and add a shade of personal interest for Adelaide 36ers fans with one-and-done import Terrance Ferguson landing there – and OKC looked something of a contender before the first ball was shot.

A lot of teams look great on paper.

Then our eventual NBL champion Melbourne United gave OKC some thunder from Down Under, beaten by a point to leave us wondering whether the Okies were going to be as good as we expected or United as talented as we suspected.

Turned out to be a bit of both but by the time Joe Ingles and the Jazz got hold of OKC, the club whose players care more about stats, comprehensively was outplayed by the team which plays like a team.

Ingles was huge in that, a joy to behold throughout the series and far more than a 3-point specialist. He was a leader, a tone-setter both defensively and aggressively, his continued development and maturity as a player rarely more evident or important.

He was a nightmare for PG13 and was anything but PG13, jingling him to the point of distraction.

Aside from Ricky Rubio being lost to the team early (hamstring) in what turned into today’s decisive Game 6 elimination of the Thunder, Utah’s usual suspects all stepped up when it mattered but none moreso than Donovan Mitchell.

His 38 points in the 96-91 win was the most scored by a rookie in the playoffs since Indiana's Chuck Person scored 40 in a 1987 first-round series against Atlanta Hawks.

He scored 15 points in the first six minutes of the third period, en route to 22 for the quarter, breaking Gordon Hayward’s franchise record for most points in a quarter in a playoff match.

And how is this for being in quality company? As only the fourth rookie in NBA history to notch 35-plus points in a playoff series-clinching victory, Mitchell joined Wilt Chamberlain (53 points), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (46 points) and Magic Johnson (42 points).

Mitchell scored 171 points across his first six playoff games, the third most by a rookie in NBA history behind Lew Alcindor (216 in 1970) and Wilt Chamberlain in (199 in 1960). {And in case you didn ‘t know, Alcindor changed his name shortly thereafter to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.}

For the record, Mitchell also had four rebounds, two assists, one steal and five 3-pointers in 40 minutes, playing the way Westbrook could if he wasn’t caught up in his own hype and attitude.

Ingles had 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals, striking 3-of-6 triples, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder all key players in the win.

OKC went down scrapping, creating a host of offensive rebound opportunities late, but unable to find the big shot when it mattered most.

Utah advances to a Western Conference semi final now against Houston Rockets.

While Toronto wrapped up its first-round Eastern Conference series 4-2 over Washington, Indiana dealt Cleveland a massive 121-87 welt to keep their battle poised for a grand finale at 3-3.

Apr 28

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.