SALT LAKE CITY — Losing Anthony Davis to a groin injury early on the fourth quarter put the New Orleans Pelicans on the ropes. Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell delivered the knockout blow.
Mitchell keyed a late surge for the Utah Jazz with a career-high 41 points and lifted Utah to a 114-108 win over New Orleans on Friday night. Along the way, he set a franchise rookie scoring record and left the Pelicans in awe of his ability to take over the game.
“What didn't he do?” Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins said. “He had a hell of a game. Super impressive coming from a rookie, such a young guy. To be that poised, to control the game the way he did (is) very impressive.”
New Orleans could do nothing to stop him from attacking the paint once Davis went down under the basket in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Davis had to be helped off the court and could not put any weight on his left leg as he exited to the locker room.
He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season. New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed Davis will undergo an MRI in Portland on Saturday and is unlikely to play against the Trail Blazers.
Still, Gentry doesn't think losing Davis excuses his team's inability to defend the red-hot Jazz in the final minutes of the quarter. In the end, the Pelicans (11-11) walked away with their third straight loss.
“It happens all the time in this league, and you just got to continue to play,” Gentry said. “It doesn't matter who goes down; we were in the opportunity where we had a chance to win the game. That's where you have to have everyone step up and play a little better for you.”
Utah opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run. The Jazz went ahead on back-to-back layups from Mitchell and Thabo Sefolosha and took a 90-84 lead on a 3-pointer from Sefolosha.
New Orleans answered that initial run with a 12-0 spurt. The Pelicans went back in front on a driving layup from Rajon Rondo. They took a 96-90 lead on Darius Miller’s 3-pointer that capped off the run.
At that point, Mitchell took over and slashed through the New Orleans defense. He had back-to-back layups to put the Jazz ahead for good, 107-103 lead with 1:17 remaining. It was part of a game-clinching 15-2 run for Utah in the final minutes.
“He dominated from start to finish,” Cousins said.
Cousins led the Pelicans with 23 points and 13 rebounds. E’Twaun Moore chipped in 18 points and Miller added 15 off the bench.
Alec Burks added 24 points for Utah, and Derrick Favors chipped in 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Jazz came out firing from outside and took a quick 14-8 lead when Mitchell and Joe Ingles drained back-to-back 3-pointers. New Orleans countered the hot perimeter shooting by trying to take control around the basket. Ten of the Pelicans’ first 14 points came in the paint and helped spark a 12-0 run.
New Orleans finished off the 12-0 run with back-to-back go-ahead 3-pointers from Moore and Nelson. That gave the Pelicans a 20-14 lead.
The Jazz and Pelicans traded baskets well into the second quarter and took a 41-38 lead on a steal and dunk from Alec Burks with 4:10 left in the quarter. From that point until halftime, the Pelicans clamped down on defense.
Utah could score only one basket and coughed up two turnovers over the final four minutes of the half.
The Pelicans made it pay off on the other end. Miller gave New Orleans the lead again on a four-point play that ignited a 17-2 spurt. Much of the run was fueled by layups from Rondo, Cousins and Davis. Miller capped it all off with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, giving the Pelicans a 55-43 halftime lead.
New Orleans built a 16-point lead early in the third quarter, going up 65-49 on a step-back jumper from Davis. Then it all unraveled for the Pelicans. Utah chipped away at the lead throughout the quarter.
Then Davis was injured, and the Jazz overtook New Orleans in the fourth quarter behind Mitchell.
“We were good defensively in the first half,” Gentry said. “I thought we kind of let the game get away from us a little bit in the third quarter. We had the big lead and we had some bad positions offensively and defensively and they climbed back into the game before the quarter was over.”
The Pelicans continue their road trip at 9 p.m. Saturday in Portland.