Although it wasn’t a perfect outing, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell bounced back nicely with his Team USA squad on Monday as the group overcame Canada in their final exhibition game.
After suffering a stunning and historic loss to the Australian National Team in the second-to-last exhibition game before entering FIBA World Cup play, Team USA bounced back in a big way by taking care of business against Canada on Monday. The American squad came out of the gates hot by surging to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter and never looked back from there as they ultimately won by a score of 84-68.
After struggling to produce in the second bout against Australia, Utah Jazz rising star Donovan Mitchell had a better outing this time around against Canada. He tied for Team USA’s second leading scorer with Kemba Walker by putting up 12 points. Jaylen Brown led the way with 19 points.
Unfortunately, though, Mitchell yet again had an inefficient outing as his shooting nearly matched the first contest against Australia in which he played quite well but didn’t have the best fortune on getting shots to fall. He went just 5-of-12 from the field which included an identically dismal 1-of-5 mark from the perimeter. Once again, it was Mitchell’s three-point shooting (or lack thereof) that was his downfall.
Still, one more made three would have made his outing 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep, so it’s hard to be overly critical. Nevertheless, it’d be nice to see a significant turnaround in an area that has plagued Mitchell since his rookie season.
Fortunately, he played well in other areas notching a team-high four assists to go along with a pair of steals. Yes, in some ways this was counter-balanced by his five turnovers and a less-than-riveting plus-5 mark on the night, but all told it was still a much better performance than the prior game. And, of course, the end result of a win helps make everything feel a little better.
With the contest against Canada wrapped up, Team USA is now done with ‘friendly’ competition and will move on to the real deal beginning on Sunday where they’ll face the Czech Republic in their first bout of group play.
Fortunately, while I don’t mean to jinx the American squad by any means, the good news they now face is that they figure to be an enormous favorite in group play as they should be head and shoulders above each of their opponents. After the Czech Republic, USA will subsequently face Turkey and Japan. In other words, even though exhibition play is past, Team USA still has three highly winnable games in which they can ideally further build chemistry and cohesion in preparation for the significantly tougher challenges of the following round.
Based on what we’ve seen thus far, they could be highly vulnerable once the competition level elevates, particularly to the likes of Australia (who just toppled them in a scrimmage), Spain, France and Serbia.
Ideally, the recent victory over Canada will be a sign of positive things ahead for Donovan Mitchell and Team USA. Mitchell’s had some brilliant moments, but I don’t think I’m alone among Utah Jazz fans when I say it’d be nice to see even more out of the player many are expecting to take a massive third-year leap as the Jazz set their sights on a championship.
With meaningful FIBA World Cup play just around the corner, it won’t take long to see just what Mitchell and the rest of this young, inexperienced Team USA squad are really made of.