PHOENIX (AP) — A dozen teams passed on Donovan Mitchell in last year’s draft before Denver finally picked him and promptly traded him to Utah.
The Jazz must be so grateful the way it all turned out.
The former Louisville star scored 40 points, one shy of his career high, and the Jazz won their fourth in a row with a 129-97 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
“I didn’t know I had 40 to be honest with you,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t know until Joe (Ingles) told me. I think the biggest thing was we were clicking. Everybody was clicking, that was the best part of it.”
The blowout followed a 30-point win over Golden State in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night, only the third time in Jazz history that the team has had consecutive 30-point wins.
Mitchell made 14 of 19 shots and a career-best seven 3s in nine attempts. It was the sixth game of at least 30 points in his young NBA career.
“He’s just making progress,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve been saying that for a while, he learns quickly. If there’s nights when it’s not a good, not as fluid, there’s usually some reason why, people guarding him different ways. But he adapts very quickly. I thought his reads were really good.”
Ricky Rubio had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Jazz. Ingles added 16 points, including 4-of-6 3s, and Derrick Favors had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Josh Jackson led the Suns with 20 points. Devin Booker, still bothered by bruised ribs, scored 18 points for Phoenix but on 7-of-24 shooting. He missed all seven of his 3s. Dragan Bender added 16 points and nine rebounds.
The Jazz, who hadn’t played since beating Golden State, opened a four-game trip in dominant fashion.
The Suns’ only lead was 2-0.
Utah scored 14 straight points to go up 24-8 before Bender came off the bench for eight first-quarter points and Phoenix finished the first quarter with a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 28-23.
The Suns never got any closer. Mitchell sank a 3-pointer, was fouled by Booker, and made the free throw for a four-point play, igniting a 12-0 run that put Utah up 53-33 on Rubio’s 3.
The Jazz led 62-40 at the half. They were up by 36 during the third quarter and 41 in the fourth.
It was the most one-sided loss for Phoenix since Jay Triano took over as interim coach three games into the season. He lamented the inconsistency of his team, which was coming off a home win over Dallas.
“It’s probably the sign of a young basketball team, but it’s disappointing to me,” Triano said. “I’d like to think we make steps and we start moving in the right direction and then we take a step back.”
Mitchell is the seventh active player to score 40 as a rookie, and now he’s done it twice. He scored 41 in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 1. The other six are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Eric Gordon, Steph Curry and Blake Griffin.
Mitchell said this was better than his 41-point game because the team played better.
“My biggest thing is I was just relaxed and settled down,” he said. “When I come into games relaxed and kind of calm, that’s when I start to figure out things.”
Jazz: Mitchell will participate in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge on All-Star weekend. … Rubio has five career triple-doubles, none with Utah. … Utah’s largest margin of victory this season was 47 points against Washington on Dec. 4.
Suns: Booker was 2 for 2 at the foul line to break the franchise record for consecutive free throws made in a season at 58. Kevin Johnson (1989-90) and Mike Bratz (1980) shared the previous record of 57. … T.J. Warren matched his season low with four points. … Suns signed guard Josh Gray to a 10-day contract. Gray had been with the Northern Arizona Suns of the G-League. He scored seven points, all in the fourth quarter, in his NBA debut. … Center Alex Len (right ankle soreness) did not play for the second straight game and has missed five of the last six.
Jazz: at San Antonio Spurs Saturday night.
Suns: Host Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.
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