SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell was “realistic” and “somber” at practice Saturday, his coach said, a day after the rookie guard struggled in a lopsided playoff loss to the Houston Rockets.
Mitchell hit only 4 of 16 shots in the Jazz’s 113-92 loss to the top-seeded Rockets, finishing with 10 points — well below his team-leading 24.3 points per game in the playoffs. After the game, the NBA Rookie of the Year candidate shouldered the blame for the loss.
“I didn’t really do much as a whole,” he said. “That can’t happen. … It’s like I would have been better off not showing up, and that’s what I did. I didn’t show up for my teammates.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder says the Game 3 loss isn’t Mitchell’s to shoulder alone.
“We talked and watched film as a team,” Snyder said Saturday. “He doesn’t need to shoulder all of that. It’s not on him.”
Utah will try to bounce back from the lopsided home loss when Game 4 tips off at 6 p.m. Sunday at Vivint Arena. Houston leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.
"The thing about our group…is that nothing like that's going to split us."
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) May 5, 2018
Snyder says he expects Mitchell to have a big role as the Jazz try to even the series before it shifts back to Houston for Game 5 on Tuesday.
“You guys have heard our guys say the strength of the team is the team, and Donovan has got a role within that team that’s important,” he said. “We’ve got to do all the little things offensively so that Donovan can be in a position where he can have higher-percentage plays. There wasn’t a lot there for him (in Game 3).”
Rookies also are allowed to struggle from time to time, Snyder said.
“It stands to reason that a rookie can have a bad game in the middle of the playoffs against the best team in the league. … At the same point, I think for Donovan’s case, there’s no reason to accept that and say, ‘Hey, it was just an off night.’ For him, it’s like, ‘Let’s look and what happened and see if we can make a dent in it.'”
Mitchell wasn’t alone in his offensive struggles Friday night. Joe Ingles also had an off night, scoring just 10 points on 2 of 10 shooting, while turning the ball over a team-high five times. As a team, the Jazz had 16 turnovers compared with just eight for the Rockets.
After the game, Ingles said it was clear the Rockets were more hungry for the win Friday after dropping Game 2 to the Jazz in Houston.
“They came out more aggressive,” he said. “We obviously didn’t start well handling that, then it kind of spiraled from there. … We weren’t ready from the get-go.”
Rockets star James Harden called Game 2 “a learning experience,” and the team “made a conscious effort to get stops and offensively push the pace” of the game in Game 3.
“We just tried to pick up your heads,” Houston’s Chris Paul said, later adding: “We just played a little harder too.”