After Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell isolated Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsapp in crunch time and drilled a 25-footer, he turned to Nuggets bench and yelled "I want this"! Mitchell scored 51 points and dished out seven assists en route to helping the Jazz beat the Nuggets 129-127 for their third consecutive win in the series as they now lead 3-1.
"That shot was a symbol of just what -- not myself, but just as a team, what we wanted," Mitchell said. "And we worked hard to get to this point. But the job's not finished. And as good as this one feels, we won by two, and we're on to Game 5."
Nuggets coach Mike Malone admitted losing such a tight game wasn't easy. "It's a tough loss," Malone said. "We got to regroup. Series is not over. We don't have to win three games in one. We just got to win one game to keep the series alive.
That's our plan right now."
Mitchell joins Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson in playoff history books
Mitchell didn't play on the level he was expected to play last playoffs and he heard all the criticism. "I love hearing negative things [said] about me," Mitchell said of what has helped him take his game to another level this postseason.
"The knock on me has been inefficient, not a team player, whatever it is. I pride myself on being a team player, on being a playmaker. I've said it a thousand times, and I am going to continue to do that. ... Fifty is what it is, but I am more happy that I got seven assists."
In Game 1, Mitchell dropped 57 points on the Nuggets but his team still lost. Mitchell has now joined Jordan and Iverson as players with two 50-point games in one series. "Honestly, it's the first round," Mitchell said of the feat.
"The two guys you named have made it to the Finals. Michael Jordan is obviously the greatest basketball player of all time. I got a lot of work to do to catch up to those guys. I am honored to be in that category, but we are doing all this in the first round."
Mitchell then underlined he took all the criticism personally. "It's no secret that last year's playoffs wasn't my best," Mitchell added. "And I took that personally, and I am going to trust my work and keep moving forward."