Donovan Mitchell is struggling. The three-time All-Star hasn’t looked like one for the Utah Jazz in their first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks. After averaging 25.9 points on 44.8 percent shooting overall and 33.5 percent from deep, he’s seen his scoring remain consistent, but his percentages have plummeted.
Not only that, but he also disappears offensively for long stretches and defensively, the Mavericks look to exploit him. While he has never been known for his defense, he’s expected to carry the offensive load for the Jazz. Right now, he isn’t, and he credits one Dallas player for making it hard on him.
“I give credit to [Dorian] Finney-Smith,” Mitchell said after Game 5. “I’ve been saying that since the beginning of the year, pretty much. This wasn’t one of my best games of my career, let alone the playoffs. The looks I have gotten haven’t been the easiest. You got to find a way.
“At the end of the day, it’s 3-2. They’ve done a good job. He’s done a solid job. I’m going to go ahead and watch the film and adjust. I’m never going to shy away from giving credit where it’s due.”
Through five games, Finney-Smith has matched up against Mitchell for just over 26 minutes, per NBA.com. It’s the most attention he has received from any Mavericks defender–Reggie Bullock has spent 25 minutes guarding Mitchell.
With Finney-Smith defending him, Michell only has five field goal attempts–he has made three–for a total of eight points. That breaks down to one field goal attempt and 1.6 points per game for Mitchell when Finney-Smith guards him. Mitchell is averaging 23.2 field goal attempts per game for the series.
There was a lot of talk within the Mavericks toward the end of the season that Finney-Smith should get consideration for a spot on an NBA All-Defense Team. Finney-Smith, who is not one to bask in praise, was thankful for the support of his coaches and teammates.
Dorian Finney-Smith has spent the most possessions in the league (1,895) guarding the opponent’s highest usage player on the floor.— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) April 7, 2022
Finney-Smith also ranks fourth in the broadest profile of positions guarded (min. 4,000 possessions). pic.twitter.com/rcgxBwYiWg
For years now, he has been one of the league’s best stories. He was undrafted out of college and developed with the Mavericks into one of the league’s premier 3-and-D players. He is the only player in NBA history to also increase his points per game and three-point percentage over a five-year stretch, according to Elias Sports.
It should come as no surprise that Finney-Smith is seeing so much time on Mitchell, nor should it be shocking that he is putting the clamps on him. Even with his great individual effort, Finney-Smith knows that the work isn’t finished. He also knows how hard he needs to work to keep Mitchell quiet in Game 6.
“We got one more,” Finney-Smith said. “I appreciate it [Mitchell’s acknowledgement of his defense], but we got one more. Hopefully, he can keep struggling, but he’s a great player. He’s going to make tough shots and he can explode quickly.”