With the trade of Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the most recent era of Utah Jazz basketball has passed. Donovan Mitchell remains a member of the Jazz, but that could change any day. The end of an era is a tough time for fans. It’s easy to think about the missed opportunities, of which there were plenty, and wonder what might have been. Rather than do that, I decided to reflect on the good memories, specifically, the best Utah Jazz games of the last five seasons.
When Donovan Mitchell proved himself a star early in his rookie season, things immediately began looking up for Utah. In the five years since that time, the Jazz have the fourth most wins in the NBA. In other words, there are a lot of great games from which to choose. I did my best to narrow it down to the top ten.
The Utah Jazz had 260 combined regular-season and playoff wins in the Mitchell/Gobert era. That means there were a lot of great games that aren’t in the top ten. Here are some of my favorites that didn’t quite make the cut.
- The “Headband Joe” game (Jazz @ Grizzlies 11/12/2018)
- The infamous Rudy Gobert ejection game (Jazz vs. Rockets 12/6/2018)
- Mike Conley’s dad-powers (Jazz vs. Nuggets game three 8/21/2020)
- Joe Ingles breaks the Utah Jazz three-point record (Jazz vs. Mavericks 1/29/2021)
- Gobert’s game-saving block against Lillard, Jazz win in overtime (Jazz vs. Trail Blazers 11/1/2017)
- Bojan Bogdanovic buzzer-beater in Houston (Jazz @ Rockets 2/9/2020)
10. Bogey catches fire against Denver (5/7/2021)
The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets have had a rivalry over the last few years, and this game only added to it. With Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley missing the game due to injury, Utah’s offense was expected to struggle. The “Croatian Sensation,” Bojan Bogdanovic, had other plans. Bogey took over the offensive load and rained jumpers from all over the court. He finished with a career-high 48 points, along with eight rebounds and eight made three-pointers. Bogdanovic spurred the Jazz to a clutch win, despite solid performances from Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr.
9. Donovan Mitchell vs. Jamal Murray duel (8/23/2020)
The 2020 NBA playoffs were a wild ride, and the first-round matchup between Utah and Denver was no exception. Both Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray were going nuclear. It felt almost impossible for either of them to miss a shot. That all came to a head in game 4, when both put up 50 or more points. Mitchell took over down the stretch. After getting blocked by Paul Millsap in the clutch, Mitchell immediately called for the ball again, iso’d against Millsap, drained a three in his eyeand then talked his talk back down the court.
Mitchell finished with a blistering 51 points, seven assists, and four rebounds. While that series ended in heartbreak for the Jazz, it showed just how unstoppable Donovan Mitchell could be.
8. Rookie Donovan Mitchell announces his presence (10/28/2017)
We all know the story of Donovan Mitchell taking the league by storm in his rookie season, but do we remember how it began? Coming into the season, Mitchell was expected to be a bench player. Except for the season opener, in which starter Rodney Hood had to miss the tipoff, Mitchell was in a reserve roll. It wasn’t until an October game against the Lakers that he broke out and proved his star potential.
Many fans remember this game because of this putback dunk.
That dunk was part of a 7-0 run by Donovan Mitchell himself. He followed it up with a made three-pointer and then drew a charge on the next play, forcing the Lakers to call a timeout. Fans were already excited about his potential, but this was his first true takeover of an NBA game.
7. Clutch Gobert block beats Dallas (1/25/2020)
The 2019-20 season was the peak of this era of Utah Jazz basketball. The Jazz were dominant all season long, and a major reason was Rudy Gobert’s elite performance. This game against Dallas encapsulates everything great about Gobert. He put up a massive double-double with 22 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks. Best of all, he didn’t miss a single shot, going 8-8 from the field.
This game was close from the tipoff and came down to the last play. With under 45 seconds left, Donovan Mitchell drove to the paint and kicked it to Royce O’Neale in the corner, who splashed a three, putting the Jazz up by two points. Dallas had a chance to tie, and it looked like they’d do just that. Delon Wright got the step on Rudy Gobert and drove straight to the basket for what should have been an easy layup, but Gobert, using his absurd length and surprising quickness, sent Wright’s shot careening off the glass. Jazz fans are accustomed to Gobert’s blocks, but this one was one of his best.
6. The Jazz grit out an intense win in game one vs. the Clippers (6/8/2021)
After a short five-game series against a young Memphis Grizzlies team, Utah was feeling confident. Their next challenge, however, was a stacked Clippers team, and Donovan Mitchell was already dealing with an ankle injury. Despite the ankle, Mitchell was unguardable. He scored 45 points while being defended by the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Bojan Bogdanovic stepped up his defense down the stretch, forcing Kawhi into turnovers and bad possessions. Mitchell hit big shot after big shot, causing the Clippers to try to double-team him. With under two minutes left, Utah had an eight-point lead and looked poised to take game one. That was when Paul George took over and brought the Clippers to within one possession with 15 seconds remaining. With the game on the line, the Jazz defense forced the ball out of Kawhi Leonard’s hands into the possession of Marcus Morris. Morris desperately heaved a three as time expired, but he was met by the long arm of Rudy Gobert, who was there to save the Jazz once again.
Final possession, Clippers down by 3. The Jazz deter their 3-point attempts at the top of the arc. Marcus Morris has an opportunity at the corner, but Rudy Gobert blocks his jumper. ball game pic.twitter.com/X5zVSwyCSW
— Positive Residual (@presidual) June 9, 2021
5. Bogdanovic at the buzzer (11/8/2019)
After one of the biggest off-seasons in Utah Jazz history, the team was ready to prove themselves. Bojan Bogdanovic was a newcomer to the team and arguably the biggest free agent signing in team history. Despite that, he was still relatively unknown to the NBA and the Jazz fanbase. It didn’t take long for him to make himself remembered. In only the ninth game he played for the Jazz, Bogdanovic put up 33 points and nailed the game-winning buzzer-beater against one of the best teams in the league. That’s one way to introduce yourself to your new team.
4. The pesky Jazz upset the Rockets in the second round (5/2/2018)
The scrappy Utah Jazz had just taken out the Oklahoma City Thunder and their big-name stars, and they were ready to challenge the Houston Rockets. Houston was a juggernaut, winning 65 games in the regular season. The Jazz were a team predicted to miss the playoffs and had gone on an incredible run to claim the fifth seed. To say that Utah was an underdog would be an understatement. On top of that, the Jazz’s starting point guard, Ricky Rubio, was out with an injury. After losing game one, Utah had to come back and start two rookies in the backcourt against the best team in the league.
Joe Ingles was the unlikely hero of this game. He scorched the nets for 27 points and seven three-pointers. Besides Ingles, Utah had five other players score in double-digits. Donovan Mitchell, the rookie sensation, struggled with his shot but took over the point guard role by dishing out 11 assists. Alec Burks and Jae Crowder carried the scoring load off the bench. Dante Exum and Royce O’Neale played lockdown defense on Houston’s stars. Down the stretch of the game, the Jazz looked to Donovan Mitchell, and he delivered one of the best highlights in recent memory.
The young Jazz held on to win that game by a strong team effort, tying the series at one game apiece. The Rockets went on to prove why they were the top seed and didn’t allow Utah to win another game, but game two was still something special.
3. The Ricky Rubio game (4/21/2018)
Ricky Rubio had already been a fan favorite in Utah, but this game cemented him in many fans’ hearts. The Jazz and the Thunder were evenly matched, although very different teams. Rubio’s matchup in this series was the reigning MVP, the triple-double king, Russell Westbrook.
The Jazz split the games in Oklahoma City, so game three was their chance to take a series lead. Ricky Rubio stepped up in a big way. Rubio was everywhere, dropping his patented one-footed running jumper and throwing dimes to teammates. He was carving up OKC’s defense with passes and cleaning up the boards. In the second quarter, Rubio absolutely went off. He scored 15 points in five minutes, bringing the Jazz from twelve points behind to four points ahead. Amidst this Rubio heater, the Jazz fans let him know how much they loved his play. Chants of “RU-BI-O, RU-BI-O” boomed through the arena. Rubio’s 26 points, eleven rebounds, and ten assists led the Jazz to victory.
2. Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors take down the Bucks (3/2/2019)
The league-leading Milwaukee Bucks came to town in March of 2019. This was a weird game for the Jazz. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 43 points, while Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert struggled to the point of not being in the closing lineup. That would make most assume the Jazz lost this game, but the heroics of Donovan Mitchell, assisted by Derrick Favors, turned the tide for Utah. Favors, who put up 23 points and 18 rebounds, was playing so well that Gobert told Quin Snyder to leave him out there. Favors looked young again, dominating the glass and throwing down one of the best dunks of his career.
In the clutch, it all came down to Antetokounmpo and Mitchell. Donovan Mitchell would not be denied. Time and time again, Mitchell dribbled right up into a pull-up three. There’s not much anyone can do when he’s in that kind of zone. The Bucks learned that the hard way. Mitchell finished with 46 points and five three-pointers.
1. The Jazz send Westbrook, George, and OKC packing (4/27/2018)
Going into game 6 with a 3-2 lead against the higher-seeded Thunder, the Utah Jazz needed a win. The fans were wild, and that energized the team. The rookie Donovan Mitchell had all the pressure in the world on his shoulders, but he was unbothered. After a low-scoring first half, Mitchell came into the second half swinging. He scored 22 points in the third quarter alone.
Utah built a double-digit lead, but Oklahoma City came storming back to within one. Derrick Favors was the unlikely hero who hit the mid-range jump shot with under two minutes left, which sealed the Jazz win. Mitchell finished with 38 points, while Favors, Gobert, and Ingles all contributed with solid performances. The team with no post-season expectations had just beaten a loaded roster full of stars.
This season was the foundation for everything Mitchell and Gobert would build together, and it was a strong foundation. Other events and rotten luck prevented them from achieving their ultimate goal, but they had a lot of great games along the way.