SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Donovan Mitchell ruined LeBron James’ 33rd birthday.
Mitchell scored 29 points, and Utah handed James and the Cleveland Cavaliers their third straight defeat, 104-101 on Saturday night.
”Just have no conscience when it comes to certain things,” Mitchell said. ”I missed a few shots that I normally make and just moving on to the next shot, making the right play at the right time. Just treating the last two minutes the same as the first two.
”If you overthink it, that’s the first mistake right there.”
James had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists as his personal losing streak at Utah extended to seven games, four of them with Cleveland. The Cavs’ three-game losing streak is their second this season.
Mitchell blew by J.R. Smith and made a layup in traffic over James with 35 seconds remaining to give the Jazz a 100-97 lead. James then missed a layup, and Utah finished off the game from the free-throw line. The Jazz snapped a three-game losing streak.
Mitchell shot 10 for 17 from the field. Ricky Rubio had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
”He’s a player,” James said. ”The kid had a lot of game and they’ve been riding that wave all season since they realized what they actually got. He’s not afraid of the moment. They put him in situations where he can succeed and he tries to take advantage of it.”
James did not record a point or an assist during the game-changing third quarter, which Utah opened with a 23-3 run. Cleveland connected on just 4 of 19 shots in the quarter.
”We turned the basketball over, we couldn’t make shots,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. ”I just thought defensively we weren’t very good. Second unit gave us a great boost and got us back in the game, moving the basketball, getting stops defensively.
”Tristan (Thompson) was great, (Dwyane) Wade was great, Jeff Green was great. So that was a good sign for those guys to get us back in the game.”
James powered the Cavaliers’ late rally, but the Jazz were able to hold on.
The Cavs led by 10 at the end of the first quarter. Utah chipped away in the second and trailed 53-48 at halftime.
”We played very well defensively in the third quarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. ”Thabo (Sefolosha), he’s competitive. We know what kind of defender he is. He’d be the first person to tell you LeBron is special and there’s nobody more unique. You just do the best you can and hope for the best.”
Jazz center Rudy Gobert was re-evaluated Saturday and will miss at least two more weeks with a sprained PCL.
The Jazz had lost 10 of 12 while playing a brutal schedule that included 11 games against teams in position to make the playoffs. Snyder acknowledged there’s been a psychological toll, but said the team is resilient.
”We try to make it about more than winning and losing,” Snyder said. ”I think a focus on the process or improving and those things.
”I don’t sense us being incredibly despondent. But that doesn’t mean there’s not some psychological toll that’s taken a little bit.”