SALT LAAKE CITY — With their season at stake, the Utah Jazz's franchise cornerstones (who have one the most closely scrutinized partnerships in the NBA) connected.
The result? A “go-ahead” alley-oopTo That allowed the Jazz to win the series. It was also the most sweet moment in the All-Stars' five-season, sometimes tense tenure as co-employees.
After Utah's win, Gobert said that it was poetic justice in a certain way.Saturday's Game 4. It's a play we've made many, many times. It just happened that it was the game-winning move tonight.”
The dynamic between Mitchell and Gobert has been the focus of much of the Jazz discussion over the past few years. It all started in 1994, when Mitchell and Gobert were the first NBA players to test positive at the start of the pandemic. Mitchell later blamed Gobert for his illness. They didn’t talk for months before the Jazz began to train in preparation for the bubble.
Mitchell's passing of Gobert to Mitchell, or the lack thereof, had created friction between them prior to that point. Mitchell's infrequent passing to Gobert — only 2.7 passes per match this season according to Second Spectrum data – became a focus in media coverage while the Jazz were struggling in the playoffs.
So the leaping chest bump Gobert and Mitchell exchanged at half court after the go-ahead dunk was about more than celebrating that play, which was Mitchell's first game-tying or go-ahead assist to Gobert in any of their 345 games played together, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
It was a moment of catharsis.
Quin Snyder, Jazz coach, said that it was “metaphoric on a certain level.” It feels good. I won't lie to you.
Mitchell stated that it felt good because it was just like hearing it. He and I may not think it's possible, but we do hear it. It's great to be able see it and to be able go out and do it on such a stage, but ultimately those are the same plays that we made throughout all of the game.
“We trust one another, we feel the other, and we are always making good plays.” It felt good. It feels good to trust.
Gobert profanely stated it in his postgame interview on TNT, saying, “Man! F— the talk!”
Gobert was not only referring to Mitchell's dynamic. Gobert also believes that Mitchell may be looking for a trade. There have been persistent rumors of Snyder being a candidate to take over as head coach, and Mitchell possibly shopping Gobert on the trade market.
Gobert said that there was a lot of noise. He had 17 points and 15 rebounds during the win. “Many people are talking about our team and our guys, the future. What might happen? How could it happen? About a lot many different things that, at the end the day, don't really matter to us. We have a team. Our series record is 2-2. This is our focus.
Mitchell ended the game with 23 points after shooting 7 of 21. This was his lowest scoring outing in the series. He didn't score any points during the second half, until he made a free throw with 7 minutes remaining. He delivered, as the Jazz regained a four point deficit in the final 39.6 seconds.
Mitchell responded to his miss by putting back an and-1 putback, pulling Utah within 31.2 seconds. After Mavs centerMitchell and Gobert ran pick-and-rolls in the middle of court after Gobert missed two free throws. Powell switched on Mitchell, making Dallas defensive stopper Mitchell was forced to defend Gobert's back from the big man rolling down the paint. Mitchell read the situation and gave the lob.
It was his seventh assist and the first to Gobert.
Mitchell stated that his teammates and coaches trust him. Mitchell shot 33%, and had a 19-12 assist-to–turnover ratio in clutch situations. Although it wasn't the most enjoyable regular season, I won't let that stop me from continuing to play in the playoffs. The ball is going to be in mine, and I have to make the right play.
Gobert's pass was the best play in Game 4. The Jazz could not have written a better script.
“Talk is talk. The end of it all, those guys have respect for each other, man,” Jazz minority owner Dwyane Dwyane Wade told ESPN. Mitchell considers Dwyane Wade a mentor. “I just love how trust we have as a team down this stretch.
“Rudy's big plays from Don were obviously huge, but a lot of fun.” [the discussion about their relationship]It was also outside noise. It was great to see them perform and it was great for our star players to be able to trust one another in that space.