MEMPHIS (ABC4 Sports) – Donovan Mitchell says he’s working his way back to his All-Star level.
To the rest of the Utah Jazz, he looks just like himself.
Mitchell scored 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and the top-seeded Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies 121-111 on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“Donovan was Donovan down the stretch,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said.
This was the second game back for Mitchell, who missed the final 16 games of the regular season and the first game in this series with a sprained right ankle. He was a bit more stoic in this game, and he said it was to help preserve himself for the end of games.
“It’s a long game,” said Mitchell, who added five assists after having zero in Game 2. “It’s been a while and just getting back into it. That’s really it. Understanding that trying to save your energy as much as possible, not needing to be as exuberant, I think that’s the right word to use, but I think just not being as loud and kind of demonstrative in my movements.”
Conley, in Memphis where he started his career, matched his regular-season and playoff career highs with seven 3-pointers and finished with 27 points and eight assists.
He said it was strange playing on the other side in a playoff game for the first time in the city he played 12 seasons.
“It’s like sometimes you live long enough to become the villain, and I’ve become that for the Memphis Grizzlies now,” Conley said. “Just got to take that in stride, continue to do what I do and have fun with that, have fun with the game.”
“Mike was terrific, man,” Mitchell said. “On both ends of the floor. He was Mike Conley. And he always has been for us all year, and he’s taken it to an even another level. And I feel like when you have a guy like that who can handle the ball, who can control the game, as well, it makes my life and my job easier.
Rudy Gobert had 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson added 15 apiece, and Royce O’Neale had 12.
Rudy Gobert was mounring the loss of his friend and mentor Mark Eaton, who died earlier in the day at the age of 64 from a bike accident.
“I feel his presence,” Gobert said. “I definitely had to come out tonight and make sure I was helping the team get a win. I know he’s watching, and he’s going to be watching for the rest of the playoffs.”
Ja Morant led Memphis with 28 points, and Dillon Brooks had 27 before fouling out. Grayson Allen added 17 off the bench, hitting five 3s. Kyle Anderson had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Jazz allowed Memphis back in the game mainly because they gave up 16 offensive rebounds, resulting in 21 second chance points. The Grizzlies also outscored the Jazz in the paint, 54-34.
Brooks scored the first six points of the fourth, starting Memphis on a 13-2 run. Morant gave the eighth-seeded Grizzlies their first lead at 107-105 with two free throws with 5:00 left, and his jumper with 4:28 made it 109-107.
But that’s when Mitchell scored on a three-point play to put the Jazz ahead to stay at 110-109. He added a 3-pointer and Utah finished on a 14-2 run. The Jazz held Memphis to without a field goal for the final four-plus minutes of the game.
“When you have a guy that has that much belief in his teammates and that competitive fire, you know he’s going to make some things happen,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said of Mitchell. “He’s not going to be successful in every possession, but he was not going to be deterred either.”
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins was more unhappy at how the Grizzlies played the first quarter than the fourth.
“They made the plays down the stretch,” Jenkins said of the Jazz. “Couldn’t get the stops. A couple of and-1s. The first quarter, we just didn’t have the discipline. Too many breakdowns, and they made us pay.”
“We’ve got an unselfish group,” Snyder said. “We talk about closing, and we were able to do that tonight.”
Utah scored the first four points and led 34-22 after the first quarter. Every time Memphis tried to eat away at the lead, the Jazz answered with another 3. The Jazz made 11 3s in leading 62-51 at halftime.
Valanciunas, who averaged 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds during the regular season, didn’t score his first backet until early in the third quarter. He scored the first 10 of the quarter pulling Memphis to 68-61, and the Grizzlies got within four on a pair of free throws by Morant with 4:05 left.
The Jazz answered with eight straight and led 96-85 after the third quarter.
Memphis increased capacity to 55% inside FedExForum, and the 12,185 fans were very loud for the franchise’s first home playoff game since April 27, 2017, when Conley was the Grizzlies’ point guard for a seventh straight postseason berth.
After three people were banned by the Jazz for racist and sexist comments to Morant’s family during Game 2, these fans booed every member of the Utah starting lineup except for Conley in his first postseason game in Memphis against the team that drafted him at No. 4 overall in 2007.
Game 4 is Monday night in Memphis at 7:30 p.m.