To play an NBA game on Christmas Day, a team must be considered one of the best in the league. It’s also become a day when the stars on the court shine brightest.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was sensational in leading Milwaukee to a come-from-behind victory over Boston. Steph Curry further strengthened his MVP case with a dominant performance over Phoenix in a battle of the league’s top two teams. James Harden returned from a lengthy absence to notch a triple-double and lead Brooklyn to a victory over the Lakers.

But what would the nightcap bring with the league’s highest-rated offense in Utah taking on a decimated Dallas team without star Luka Doncic? All it did was introduce the nation — if they didn’t already know — to who Donovan Mitchell is.

Dropping a game-high 33 points with an array of sensational moves around the rim, Mitchell led the Jazz to a 120-116 victory over the pesky Mavericks to wrap up the NBA’s Christmas Day slate of games.

“Whoever decides these all-NBA teams, I can’t believe he (Mitchell) wasn’t on any of them. … They must not be watching the games because there’s no way he isn’t a top-15 guy in the league,” ESPN announcer Richard Jefferson said of Mitchell during the game.

Not his most efficient performance on the season, Mitchell showed his strength and explosiveness to get to the rim at will. Dallas had no answer as he finished 10-of-11 from the free throw line, adding three assists, three rebounds, and three steals.

Mitchell even received “M-V-P” chants late in the fourth quarter during a pair of free throws. While Curry appears to be the current leader for that accolade, Mitchell’s play throughout the season — and especially of late — has garnered a lot of eyes and respect coming his way.

“It’s the biggest holiday in sports for us, and you know, to be able to play on that day is extra motivation and extra drive,” Mitchell said. “But on a night like tonight, you hear that and you know, I’m just doing my thing. It’s something as a kid I wouldn’t have dreamed of. … I’m very appreciative of playing on this day.”

Mitchell wasn’t the only star of the night.

Jordan Clarkson was sensational off the bench, finishing with 12 points and a +22 rating. Although he struggled from the floor shooting the ball, his energy on the offensive end and aggressiveness on defense helped turn the tide for the Jazz in the final 12 minutes. He also added eight rebounds and four assists, showing he’s much more than a flamethrower off the bench.

“He’s locked in, and I think he has the ability when he’s in the lane to score or draw people and make plays,” head coach Quin Snyder said of Clarkson. “We’re not going to judge him on whether the ball goes in or not. … He’s trying to take good shots, involve people, and play defense. I’ll take that any day of the week.”

“I’ve been shooting the ball like trash this year, but right now, it’s playing hard and bringing that energy,” Clarkson added. “Shots aren’t falling like I want them to, so I’m just trying to find different facets of the game I can impact. It’s just all a mindset knowing that if I start it on the defensive end, the offense will come.”

The Jazz started the game like a team that had too much prime rib and crab legs pregame.

Without Doncic and several key players, the Mavericks came out on fire, jumping out to a 30-14 advantage late in the first quarter. But Mike Conley erupted for five quick points, igniting an 11-4 Jazz run to close the quarter.

Utah continued to chip away at the deficit in the second quarter before Conley caught fire again, drilling back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Mitchell then took over for the Jazz, scoring 16 points over the final eight minutes of the half to give Utah a 65-63 lead at the break.

Dallas again refused to quit, coming out strong in the third and taking a nine-point lead with 4:45 to play in the quarter.

But like they did in the first quarter, the Jazz responded. Mitchell’s bucket started a 13-4 run that tied the game at 90, entering the final 12 minutes of action.

In the fourth quarter, Utah looked like the veteran team, jumping out to a nine-point lead punctuated by a Mitchell three-pointer. But the Mavericks had one more run in them, cutting Utah’s lead to 107-105 with 4:44 to play.

The Jazz put the game away with an 11-4 run, improving their Christmas Day record to 6-2 and keeping pace with Warriors and Suns in the Western Conference.

“It’s got to be consistent regardless of who we play,” Rudy Gobert said. “If we want to be the team that we can be, we have to have that mindset every single night. We have to compete with ourselves.”

Conley finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Gobert added another double-double of 10 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 25 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Jazz bench played really well with the starters struggling out of the gates. Apart from Clarkson, Joe Ingles finished with a +24 rating, while Rudy Gay had a +19 rating. Hassan Whiteside dropped nine points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in just 14 minutes of action.

Utah has one day off before hitting the road to face San Antonio on Monday night. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MST.


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