‘Fans, stay with us’: Mitchell pleads after Jazz cancels 17-point lead over loss to Suns



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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell slammed both hands hard against the scorer’s table like a “Let’s go Suns!” chanting started by Vivint Arena.

All the good vibes the Utah Jazz had created over the past four days were completely wiped out on Friday in their final home game of the regular season.

It happened again.

Utah had a 17-point lead as the game entered the fourth quarter; they lost 111-105.

If Friday’s game against the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns was seen as a prelude to the playoffs—as the team said it was—then you might as well expect the same thing to have happened all season to mark the end of the season. Jazz to follow into the late season.

The Suns beat the Jazz 36-13 in the final 12 minutes to storm back in what is already too predictable fashion. The Jazz were 3 of 20 from the field in the fourth quarter, including 1 of 9 from deep; the Suns were 14 out of 21 with nine assists.

It was the 16th time this season that the Jazz have lost a game after a double-digit lead and the sixth time this has happened in the fourth quarter; three of those games came against Western Conference playoff teams in the past two weeks.

“Obviously we’ve done some really good things — not some, like a lot — to put ourselves in a position that we’re in,” said coach Quin Snyder. “And from that point on, when we got into crunch time, we didn’t continue with that.”

In the end, it was the same things that have been repeated over and over this season: The Jazz stopped moving the ball and then couldn’t stop once the attack stalled. Soon, a 17-point lead was gone.

“I don’t think there’s any kind of voodoo hex floating around,” Snyder said. “Maybe there’s a little bit of anxiety when those things start to happen.”

Rudy Gobert added: “I think in the fourth, in crunch time, we think too much. When we’re 17 and they creep up…and the game is a draw, it feels like….” Gobert faded and never finished his thought.

Mitchell was 0 for 6 in the fourth quarter and Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic were a combined 1 of 4 from the field. Everything before that became irrelevant as soon as the last buzzer sounded.

Yes, the Jazz went smash-up with the best team in the league—until the Suns did what they’ve been doing all season: level up when it mattered most. The Jazz not – couldn’t? – follow.

Phoenix didn’t have to win the game; the Suns set the best record in the league a long time ago. It was like Phoenix was taking on Utah’s misery for fun.

So what needs to change?

Mitchell thinks it’s pretty simple.

“I have to get a shot in the fourth,” said Mitchell. “I haven’t been good in fourth all year. My team needs me to be that man. I have to seize the opportunity.”

That’s somewhat at odds with “move the ball” and “keep playing the same way” solutions Snyder and Gobert shared – which, frankly, may be part of the problem – but Mitchell is probably kind of right.

Since the All-Star break, Mitchell has shot 30.2% of the field on 96 attempts and 20% on 40 attempts from deep into the fourth quarter. If he can return to the supernova version he has shown in the last two playoffs, Utah’s closing numbers will likely disappear.

“Hitting hard shots is my job and I didn’t do it,” Mitchell said. “…What you all consider tough is the same reruns I’ve been doing all summer. So I’m working on getting those shots in those moments, so now I just have to get out there and hit them. There’s no different formula for .”

And remembering his past successes, he made a final plea to jazz fans: “I know it sucks. Fans, stay with us. I promise we’ll be fine.”

Ryan Miller has been covering the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.

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