SALT LAKE CITY — Rookie Donovan Mitchell couldn’t hold back a wide, toothy smile as Utah Jazz fans chanted his name and gave an ovation that lasted for minutes after a win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Mitchell scored a career-high 41 points and powered the Jazz’s fourth-quarter rally in a 114-108 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
The No. 13 overall draft pick set the Jazz scoring record for a rookie and became the first NBA rookie to score 40 points in a game since Blake Griffin in 2011. He surpassed Darrell Griffith’s team-record 38 in 1981.
Mitchell is the seventh rookie in franchise history to have a 30-plus point game.
"I don’t have any words, to be honest," Mitchell said. "I had Jonas (Jerebko) in my ear saying keep taking those shots. Even shots that may not always be good shots, he says keep being aggressive. Coach’s saying it. Everybody’s saying it.
"The fans are incredible. Just like Louisville. I’m speechless, but it was great to have that ovation. I’m pretty sure I was smiling for about the last six points I scored. Still smiling now."
New Orleans star Anthony Davis went down with a left groin injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter, hitting the ground under the Jazz basket and laying there until trainers came to help. Coach Alvin Gentry said Davis will have an MRI in Portland on Saturday and is "very unlikely" to play.
They eventually carried the All-Star off because he couldn’t put any pressure on one of his legs. He was immediately placed in a wheelchair and taken to the training room. Davis had 19 points and 10 rebounds before leaving. DeMarcus Cousins led New Orleans with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
The Pelicans controlled the first three quarters with an outstanding shooting effort despite decent defence from the Jazz. They shot 52.4 per cent and made 11 of 21 3-point attempts in the first three quarters.
"One of the things about Donovan, he’s got his head on straight," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Some of what he did tonight is a function of the fact that he’s studied it, worked at it and as a result his reads were really good."
Utah trailed by 12 at halftime, but began to chip away in the third quarter behind 21 combined points from Mitchell and Alec Burks. The Jazz were down 16 in the third, making this their largest comeback of the season.
"Like I said to the guys, if you would’ve said that we had an opportunity to be up four with 12 minutes to play, we would’ve taken that," Gentry said. "We just didn’t finish the game. I thought they did a great job and, obviously, Donovan played a great game, pressure on us the entire game driving to the basket. When he didn’t drive he was shooting a 3-point shot. I think he has a chance to be a great player."
The Jazz opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run to take a 90-84 lead. The Pelicans answered with a 12-0 run to take a six-point lead before Mitchell absolutely took over. He unleashed a variety of layups and pull-ups, including five straight during a 9-0 run to put the game away after the teams were tied at 103.
Burks scored 24 off the bench, and Mitchell had 29 in the second half. Derrick Favors added 18 points and 11 rebounds.
"They hit some shots, they hit some big shots," Cousins said. "The rookie had a (heck) of a game, he dominated from start to finish. They hit some big shots.
"What didn’t he do? He had a (heck) of a game. Super impressive coming from a rookie, such a young guy to be that poised and control the game the way he did."
Pelicans: Rookie Frank Jackson was in the building against his hometown team, but is out indefinitely with a right foot fracture. He grew up in Salt Lake City before playing college ball at Duke. Jackson went through a short workout pregame.
Jazz: Rodney Hood missed his third consecutive game with left ankle soreness. … Raul Neto did not play for the second straight game due to left hamstring soreness.
The Jazz began one of the toughest December stretches in the league on Friday. They face four division leaders in the Wizards, Rockets (twice), Celtics and Warriors. They also play the Cavaliers twice and Thunder three times. The Thunder and Bulls are the only teams with a losing record that Utah faces this month.
Pelicans: Travels to face Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
Jazz: Hosts John Wall and the Washington Wizards on Monday night.