Gordon Hayward says Celtics Friday win is a building block to success

Gordon Hayward says Celtics\ Friday win is a building block to success

The Boston Celtics host the Utah Jazz tonight for their second match-up in five games.

Both teams have started disappointingly slow for franchises hoping to make deep playoff runs, but the circumstances surrounding each arent quite the same as last time. Since their first face-off, the Jazz absorbed arguably the most humiliating loss in the NBA, falling to the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks by a whopping 50 points on Wednesday night before narrowly losing to the Philadelphia 76ers last night. Against the Sixers, Donovan Mitchell made some dubious history: he became the first player to take 35+ shots while dishing zero assists since Carmelo Anthonys 62-point game in 2014…and unlike Melo, Mitchell would manage only to score only 31.

The Celtics, meanwhile, enter the game winners of two straight, having demolished the hapless Chicago Bulls on Thursday and outplayed the conference-leading Toronto Raptors in a thrilling overtime spectacle last night. After a 1-4 road trip plagued by inconsistent effort and offensive discombobulation, the Celtics have looked like a team possessed; theyve played with outstanding aggression and the open shots theyve been generating all season are finally starting to fall. Over their past two games, theyve had a net rating of +16.3 and a blistering true shooting percentage of 59.8%.

Such a statistical line might seem cringe-worthy to a youngster who has been compared with the likes of Dwyane Wade, one of the most complete players the league has ever produced. Evidently, Mitchell is undergoing some noticeable growing pains in his second season, and hasnt really catapulted off of his impressive rookie year, as many would have expected him to.

Irving isnt the only one feeling confident, either. Jayson Tatum has scored 20+ points in three of his last four games while shooting better than 50% from behind the three-point arc, and seems to be rapidly emerging from his early-season malaise. Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward — who made his dramatic return to Salt Lake City in the teams last game — is coming off his most exciting performance since returning to the court, playing 39 minutes against the Raptors and helping ice the overtime victory with 15 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals. Now, with his minutes limit clearly lifted, Hayward would no doubt love to build on that performance — and get a bit of payback against his former team in the process.

Both teams will be playing the second half of a back-to-back, and both teams are largely healthy — Marcus Morris has recovered from the illness that held him out against the Bulls, and the Jazz will miss only little-used reserve guard Raul Neto. With the Celtics staring down a significantly lighter upcoming schedule — seven of their next nine opponents missed the playoffs last season — sweeping a back-to-back against could-be Finals contenders would be a great way to kick start some serious momentum to close out November.

Even though hes averaging 21.2 points per game this season, hes shooting just 40.8 percent from the floor and taking almost 19 shots every game. In a team that is stacked with veteran talents like Rudy Gobert & Ricky Rubio, the ball stays a bit too much with him, most of the times ending in a missed field goal.

Because Mitchells stat line in a 113-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was the exact type the modern NBA frowns upon. It was high-volume, low-efficiency to a 21st century extreme.

Mitchell scored 31 points. Or, rather, only 31 points, on 35 shots – as many as Utahs four other starters combined. Oh, and 0 assists. Zero.

Jazzs Donovan Mitchell on 35-Shot, 0-Assist Game: Thats Not Who I Am

It was the second 35-shot, 0-assist night of the last 20 years. But the other was acceptable. It was Carmelo Anthonys 62-point isolation masterpiece against the Bobcats in 2014. The Knicks won that game, and Melo scored twice as much as Mitchell did Friday.

After an ugly two-game stretch, the Jazzs guards bounced back with excellent performances in some difficult circumstances.

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For the last such performance in a loss, we have to go all the way back to January 1998. To Antoine Walker, who had 49 points on 21-of-36 shooting in a Boston Celtics loss to Phoenix. But even Walkers individual line was more than satisfactory.

The 22-year-old University of Louisville product finished the contest with 31 points, four steals and two rebounds, but he made just 13 of his 35 shots, including only one of his 11 three-point attempts. The rest of the Jazz shot a combined 52.8 percent from the field, but it wasnt enough to overcome his poor night.

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In fact, so were most of the 34 other 35-shot, no-assist games in NBA history. (Twenty-two of them, per Basketball Reference, belong to Wilt Chamberlain.) No player had scored as few points as Mitchell on as many field goal attempts without an assist since Elvin Hayes went for 28 on 40 shots in a 1969 San Diego Rockets loss to the Detroit Pistons.

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Donovan Mitchell spots fan wearing his high school jersey during warmups

Mitchells 31 points represented the third-worst scoring output of the 35-game game sample in Basketball References database. The only other lesser performance was one of Wilts. (And Wilt had 33 rebounds in that 1959 Philadelphia Warriors win. On Friday, Mitchell had two.)

Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell said Friday night he “cant have a game like that” after attempting 35 shots and recording zero assists in a 113-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Mitchell didnt know all of that context when he looked at Fridays box score in the immediate aftermath. But he didnt need them to feel repulsed by it.

Mitchell jacked half of the teams 3-pointers and made only one. He missed 22 shots – 10 more than any teammate attempted, and more than Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Ricky Rubio, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Royce ONeale, Thabo Sefolosha and Alec Burks missed combined.

As Hayward rounds into form, the Celtics have needed Tatum to be their second fiddle; someone who can consistently threaten to score 20 points per game and lighten Irvings load. After struggling to begin the season, Tatum has been right around that mark in his last five games, scoring 17.4 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point land. Those percentages likely arent sustainable for the entire season, but they are more on par with what he did last year than the 42.2 percent and 40.6 percent (still very good) hes shot this year.

I took 35 shots, Mitchell said after the game. That cant happen. Zero assists. Thats not who I am. Thats not how I play. I know Im still being aggressive, but Ive got to be smart.

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Mitchell was rightfully horrified. But he was more or less the only one with that strong a reaction in the visiting locker room at Wells Fargo Center. Because everyone in there has seen a lot more good than bad from him over the past 13 months.

It was the kind of offensive performance weve come to expect out of Irving as hes grown as a player, and stretches like the one hes currently on–30 points per game in his last five–are part of what makes him so special. It would be unrealistic to expect him to do this every night, though, which is why it was so refreshing to see Jayson Tatum score 21 points in support of his fellow Duke Blue Devil.

Mitchell, over a year-plus in the NBA, has already built enough clout to garner steadfast support after such a rough night.

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From head coach Quin Snyder: We know where his heart is as far as wanting to play the right way and being [unselfish]. The biggest thing is just having him attack. If hes not attacking, hes not in situations where he can improve. I think thats the most important thing, and then over time, you just become more efficient. That doesnt happen overnight.

Share Share Donovan Mitchell spots fan wearing his high school jersey during warmups tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Donovan Mitchell continues to be one of the best guys in the NBA. Before the Celtics-Jazz game, he spotted a fan close the court wearing his high school jersey. He invited the fan onto the court to rebound for him during warmups and then signed his jersey. Class act, Mitchell.

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From teammate Joe Ingles, via ESPN: We want him to be aggressive. We need him to be aggressive. I said it to him during one of the timeouts: If he feels good about the shot and its a good shot within our offense, he needs to shoot it. If hes 1-for-20 or 20-for-20, it doesnt matter for us. Hes our guy. Thats what he does. Hes aggressive. He doesnt need to overthink it. He doesnt need to think that its his fault that we lost. I think the last thing he needs to do is be worrying about it.

And from center Rudy Gobert: He needs to be aggressive. His No. 1 strength is to get to the rim and make plays. He needs to learn to make the right decision at the right time. Its not easy. The NBA is hard. Its a tough league. Hes learning.

Mitchell almost rewrote the script with a dazzling fourth-quarter stretch. He hit a step-back mid-range jumper with 5:19 left to bring Utah within one. He then drilled his only 3-pointer of the night in Joel Embiids eye to give the Jazz a lead.

His bucket with 2:31 to play again put Utah ahead, and gave Mitchell 13 points for the quarter in less than seven minutes of action. In a game that had been billed as a duel between last years Rookie of the Year contenders, and a reignition of their miniature feud, Mitchell was suddenly outdueling Ben Simmons when it mattered. He was completing Utahs comeback from a 16-point first-quarter deficit.

3 takeaways from the Utah Jazzs 113-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers

But he went 0-for-3 over the final two minutes. And on the key possession, down two with under a minute to go, he kicked to Ingles for what would have been assist No. 1. Ingles air-balled a 3 from the top of the key. And Mitchells stat line sailed into the worst chapter of the record books.

Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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