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In quick succession, Donovan Mitchell had a pair of plays that lifted a summer league crowd to its feet on Tuesday night.
First, he wrestled a ball from the hands of Jayson Tatum, the prized No. 3 draft pick of the Boston Celtics, and was fouled. He followed up with quite the encore: a spin move that knocked Tatum on his feet, then a dish to Julian Wright for a dunk that had Huntsman Center rocking.
It was an exhibition, one in which the statistics and score (a 68-65 win for the 3-0 Jazz) will soon be forgotten. But for a Jazz fanbase looking for any small victory against the franchise that stole their star player in free agency, it was soothing at least for an evening.
The wound of losing Gordon Hayward is fresh: Fans brought signs reading "BETRAYWARD" and modified once-cherished jerseys to read "COWARD." They booed the Boston summer league squad from the outset, showing more emotion than any other exhibition game this week.
The exploits of Mitchell, Utah's No. 13 pick in the draft this year, gave them something to feel good about.
"Once we came back that's when we started to feel it," he said. "When you got fans going crazy like that, it's easy to have fun out there."
The tension between Boston and Utah has built up over the week in Salt Lake City.
On Monday, fans shouted at Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, but also were rapt with attention as he lounged in the tunnel on his cellphone, wondering what conversations he might be having about or with Hayward, who had yet to make his decision at the time.
By Wednesday, after Hayward's announcement he was leaving for Boston, there was a more hostile reception after the fears were realized. As Ainge, a former BYU star, sat near coach Brad Stevens watching Boston's early game, one fan shouted at him: "Danny, how could you?"
Players have felt the hostility from fans as well at least second-year Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said so initially.
"For sure," he said. "I mean, I think so."
Then, a pause.
"Actually, not really," he said. "I don't really pay attention to that."
Apparently Hayward isn't the only Celtic who had three different responses ready.
The challenge for both Utah and Boston has been trying to shut out the Hayward-related noise as they try to teach and develop players. Both Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Celtics assistant Jerome Allen, who led their respective Summer League teams this week, said they didn't address any free agency news during practices.
Mitchell, who had eight points on Thursday, seemed to have no trouble locking in on his assignment. After Tatum opened the game hitting his first two shots, Mitchell asked to guard him.
Mitchell's no-space-to-breathe defense held Tatum (who averaged 22 points in his first two games) to four points in the second half, and only 12 points in the game on 4-for-12 shooting. Mitchell had four steals, helping make up for his subpar offensive night.
"You can impact the game besides shooting and scoring, and that's what he did," Jensen said. "He's physical, he has good feet, good anticipation. He does a good job of corralling that aggression."
So convincing was Mitchell, fans who chanted "MVP" minutes earlier in the fourth quarter for Dante Exum (team-high 16 points) switched their allegiance to the rookie as he stood on the free-throw line, sinking the game-sealing points.
Mitchell was flattered. But he recognizes there's more work to do.
"It's a great feeling, but as I told my mom, the success is great, but this is summer league," he said. "I'm just excited I proved myself a little bit, and I gotta prove it against the big guys."
Dante Exum has a team-best 16 points.
Donovan Mitchell finishes with four steals.
Utah rallies from a 13-point Celtics lead.