Utah Jazz: LaMarcus Aldridge needed a career night to overcome Donovan Mitchell

SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 23 : LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs moves to score against Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah jazz and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah jazzat AT&T Center on March 23, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 23 : LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs moves to score against Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah jazz and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah jazzat AT&T Center on March 23, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

LaMarcus Aldridge may have had a career night against the Utah Jazz but rookie Donovan Mitchell matched him blow-for-blow in the clutch.

The Utah Jazz may have lost to the San Antonio Spurs in an overtime thriller, but Donovan Mitchell was sensational. The rookie took over late for the Jazz, scoring 14 in the fourth quarter, including a game-tying 3-pointer with less than four seconds left to send the game into OT.

Critics will point to the number of shot attempts (36, a career high) he needed to reach his 35-point total, but that doesn’t tell the full story.

Entering the game’s final moments, the rookie was just 1-of-7 from three. In fact, he was 1-of-8, 1-of-10 and 1-of-6 over the previous three games. Add in the aforementioned 1-of-7 and you have a paltry 4-of-31 through nearly four games.

However, that didn’t stop him from seizing the moment, nailing big-time 3-point shots in the clutch and pulling the Jazz back into the game.

The only explanation is that some former All-Star took over Mitchell’s body and he’s not really a rookie, right?

LaMarcus Aldridge’s best game in years

What makes this performance so incredible/unbelievable (somehow he’s still a rookie) is that Mitchell did it when the Jazz were on the wrong side of a back-to-back against the Spurs, who have only lost eight games at home this year. He also managed to go blow-for-blow with LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored a career high 45 points.

In a word, Aldridge was unstoppable. He not only had his best individual game of the season, it was the sixth-best game of his entire career. Think about that — a six-time All-Star, who had the sixth-best game of his entire career during his 12th season in the NBA at age 32.

Below are the six games in Aldridge’s career where he had a game score of 35.0 (his figure against the Jazz) or greater. Note that the last time he had a game this good was during the 2013-14 season when he still played for Portland. Also note that when Aldridge plays like this, his team has always won.

Query Results Table

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/24/2018.

Despite that, in a game where the Jazz struggled all night, Mitchell put the Jazz on his back and forced overtime. The Jazz had no business even being close to an overtime game given the way they performed throughout.

So for those critics who will write off Mitchell’s performance, just think on this: it took a six-time All-Star having a career night against a team on a back-to-back road set to overcome the first-year phenom’s heroics. Loss or no, what Mitchell learned from his game is something that can’t be taken away.

Make no mistake about it — Mitchell danced with a star and held up his end.

This season, from a Jazz fan perspective

Jazz fans this season have gone from:

  1. Gordon Hayward and George Hill are gone, but let’s still go for the playoffs
  2. Yikes, this Jazz starting lineup isn’t working. They’ll figure it out.
  3. Oh boy, Rudy is hurt. That may be the end.
  4. The Jazz probably aren’t going to make the playoffs, but Donovan Mitchell just scored 41 points. The future is bright.
  5. Is it January yet? Or maybe even the summer?
  6. Atlanta loss.
  7. 11 straight wins and we still aren’t in the playoffs, but this team is fun.
  8. We’re going for home-court!

Now? We may be thinking “aw man, we’re gonna end up in the eighth spot.” But look how far the team has come!

Next: Jazz getting some help thanks to Steph, Kyrie injuries

At one point, nobody thought the playoffs were even going to be a possibility. Now, the Jazz are very much in the postseason mix and have already guaranteed they won’t have a losing record. This season was supposed to be a learning and/or transition season, but has still managed to be a success regardless of the final result to come.

Mitchell has played a major role in making that happen. We’ve all said it before and I’ll say it again — he is a special player.