EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Mitchell soars, Defense stifles, Jazz win

SUMMARY: Donovan Mitchell excites the crowd, defense holds down Lakers and Jazz break a two-game losing streak to win 96-81.
• The talk around the town will be Donovan Mitchell. As the second quarter was winding down, Alec Burks pulled up for 3 and missed. Out of nowhere, soaring above the defense, Mitchell rose up above all others and packed down a one-handed follow jam. The Lakers turned it over and with the crowd still roaring, Mitchell pulled for 3 and hit the bottom of the net. Vivint Arena erupted. The Donovan Mitchell experience has started.

• Quin Snyder made two really interesting moves late in the game and both of them worked out. He stayed big with Favors and Gobert against the small, fast lineup of the Lakers. Quin has been reluctant to close with both bigs but he went with it tonight and it was successful. The Jazz were able to handle the Lakers’ speed and they dominated the offensive glass in the second half of the game.

• Quin also closed the game with Donovan Mitchell rather than Rodney Hood. Mitchell came through late in the game with a big corner 3 and some great drives to the basket. Mitchell finished the 4th quarter with seven points on 3 of 6 shooting and had an assist.

• The impressive thing about Mitchell tonight was that he was really struggling coming into this game. Seeing him after the game in Phoenix, he looked really down for the first time and was befuddled by why he was having such a hard time. He was struggling early in this game to finish around the rim and then he exploded. It is a sign of his mentality. He is confident and fearless. That is what allowed him to have the game he had this evening: 22 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals on 9 of 16 shooting.

• The Jazz’s defense is really the story of the night. They held the Lakers to an offensive rating of 91 (read as 91 points per 100 possessions). The league average is 107 and the best in the NBA defensively last year was 100. The Lakers shot just 5 of 22 from 3 and hit on just 5 of 16 shots in the 4th quarter. The Lakers avoided Rudy Gobert all night. The Lakers EFG% was 41.4% — league average is 51%.

• Joe Ingles put together a very impressive line tonight with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He hit on 3 of 7 from 3 and is now an incredible 18 of 35 for the season.

• The Lakers were playing on the back end of a back-to-back and three games in four nights against the Jazz. Tonight’s game was played at a very slow pace. The unofficial pace was 90 possessions, which is 10 lower than league average and even five lower than what the Jazz average. The Lakers had been playing at a pace of 106.5 possessions.

• Quin Snyder made some subtle changes to the rotation tonight. He took Rubio out in the first quarter earlier than he has been and brought him back in the same quarter. Instead of Neto, Snyder went to Mitchell allowing Alec Burks to get some minutes. The Jazz have really struggled with first quarters and tonight they scored 31 points, The last three on a Donovan Mitchell buzzer beater.

• Ricky Rubio had 21 points, 7 in the 4th quarter. He hit 6 of 13 and 4 of 7 from 3.

• The Jazz continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. Tonight, they turned it over on 21% of their possessions. This is not sustainable. It has to be rectified as the year continues and the players get to know each other better.

• Rudy Gobert looks like he had a quiet night with 6 points and 8 rebounds. His presence rolling to the basket is what opened the Jazz up for 30 3-point shots. The Lakers were taking away the roll and the Jazz were hitting shooters on skip passes to open 3-point shooters when the Lakers took away the roll.

• Derrick Favors had a double-double. He had six all of last season. His last one was March 3rd versus Brooklyn. Favors is finishing at the rim at a very high rate that shows how healthy he is.

• It is not a coincidence that Mitchell had a strong game playing against kids his same age tonight instead of playing the grown adults he has been facing many nights in the NBA. This is still a process and he is going to have ups and downs. Tonight sure was exciting.

• This was a solid win. This season will largely be defined by the how the Jazz do against the teams they should beat.