BOZICH | MJ, Kareem, LeBron, Wilt ... Donovan Mitchell enjoys legendary playoff run
Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell led Utah past Oklahoma City in the first round of the NBA playoffs, putting up numbers you'd expect from Hall of Famers.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I’m not here to predict that Donovan Mitchell will finish his career as one of the 10 leading scorers in NBA history.
I’m not prepared to say that Mitchell is the Next Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.
(Although last season at the the University of Louisville, I did suggest to Mitchell that his game reminded me of Russell Westbrook. I hesitated before I wrote that column. Too much, too soon? But I stuck with it. Doesn’t seem so silly any more.)
But after Mitchell and the Utah Jazz put Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, poor Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder on ice Friday night in their NBA playoff first-round series, Mitchell’s dazzling rookie season earned several more exclamation points!!!!
I’m here to supply them. This is a list of how the Top 10 scorers in NBA history — and Mitchell — performed in their first six career playoff games.
1. Michael Jordan, 229 points; did not win a series until fourth season, losing nine of his first 10 playoff games.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 216 points; won first playoff series, lost second.
3. LeBron James, 214 points; did not win series until third season.
4. Wilt Chamberlain, 199 points; won first playoff series, lost second.
5. Donovan Mitchell, 171 points; won first playoff series.
6. Elvin Hayes, 155 points; lost first playoff series.
7. Karl Malone, 129 points; did not win series until third season.
8. Dirk Nowitzki, 128 points; did not win series until third season.
9. Shaquille O’Neal, 127 points; did not win series until third season.
10. Moses Malone, 100 points; won first playoff series, lost second.
11. Kobe Bryant, 35 points; won first playoff series, lost second.
Not a terrible list to crash.
There’s more. Mitchell scored 38 points for the Jazz in the closeout Game 6 Friday night. Neither Kobe nor Shaq delivered a 38-point game during their first run through the playoffs.
Abdul-Jabbar had a 46-point game as an NBA rookie. Jordan scored 49 and 63 in his fifth and sixth playoff games, but that was at the end of his second season in the league. Chamberlain went off for 53 and 42. LeBron had games of 41 and 45.
None of those guys won their first two playoff series as rookies.
You get the picture. Mitchell is playing his way into an awfully fancy neighborhood, especially if Utah, the fifth seed, backs up its mild upset over OKC by taking down top-seed Houston.
That series begins Sunday in Houston at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
That series will also match Mitchell against the guy likely to be named the NBA MVP next month — the Rockets’ James Harden.
Harden, 28, is finishing his ninth NBA season. He cleans the bottom of his sneakers with rookies. He makes them deliver bottled water to his room. Defending Harden is cruel and unusual punishment. Harden averaged a league best 30.4 this season.
(Quick note: Harden scored 46 points in his first six NBA playoff games, a series he and the Thunder lost to the Lakers.)
Harden averaged 29 points as the Rockets dispatched Minnesota in five games during their first-round series.
That’s a half-point more than Mitchell averaged against the Thunder.
Let the record show that the top five scorers in the 2018 playoffs to date are:
1. Anthony Davis, Pelicans, 33.
2. James, Cavaliers, 32.7.
3. Westbrook, Thunder, 29.3.
4. Harden, Rockets, 29.
5. Mitchell, Jazz, 28.5.
Mitchell has averaged 10.3 more points per game than the second rookie on the list — Ben Simmons of the Sixers, who believes he has earned the NBA rookie of the year award by unanimous proclamation.
Consider it another reminder of precisely the kind of remarkable season Donovan Mitchell has delivered.
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