Utah Jazz rising superstar Donovan Mitchell struck down his basketball ghosts before they even had a chance to get names. Mitchell had a tough outing in Game 3 against the Rockets — one that might have haunted a lesser player — as the Jazz blew a lead and their young leader failed to rise to the occasion. Exorcising those ghosts took Mitchell exactly one day, as he soared to renewed greatness in a major bounce-back leading the Jazz to a Game 4 win with 31 points, 19 in the 4th quarter against the powerful Houston Rockets.
Basketball is a team game, and confidence shared between teammates is the most successful aspect of a truly successful franchise culture. (Ask the Golden State Warriors, who excel at placing confidence in their teammates.) What bodes particularly well for the Jazz and Jazz basketball culture going forward isn’t just Mitchell’s terrific play, but how he was encouraged toward it — especially by veteran teammate Kyle Korver. After Mitchell’s glitch in Game 3, Korver went out of his way to praise the young star. Mitchell’s bravura Game 4 performance wasn’t due to Korver’s praise — the bounce-back is all on Mitchell’s strong shoulders — but a culture where teammates share and praise instead of blame is a culture that makes things like Mitchell’s Game 4 not just possible but likely.
Here’s just some of what Korver said, praising and lifting after Mitchell’s disappointing Game 3: “I have never been around a young player like Donovan Mitchell. I have never seen someone so young take ownership of a team, take ownership of his play, do it with charisma, do it with class—I’ve never seen that my 16 years in the NBA.” That sets up a Game 4 bounce-back, and that’s what young Donovan Mitchell delivered. Korver played just 2 minutes in the game and did not score. His effect on the outcome had been delivered the night before.