SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Donovan Mitchell wasn’t happy with Utah’s sporadic defense and neither was coach Quin Snyder.
Good thing the Jazz had plenty of scoring options to make up for it.
Mitchell scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and Utah overcame an uneven performance on both ends of the floor to beat the Sacramento Kings 123-117 in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night.
“That whole group that started the game just was flat, and flat defensively,” Snyder said. “Against a team that has the level of speed that these guys have, you’re playing on your heels and it’s hard. As a collective group we just need to be more consistent with our focus defensively throughout the game.”
Utah trailed by 16 early in the first quarter, blew a 14-point lead in the third and then pulled away in the fourth.
Mitchell, runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting last season, struggled with his shot all night but came up big late. He made a pair of 3-pointers, scored on a driving layup and hit a key free throw with 1:46 remaining.
Mitchell shot 8 of 21 and went made only 3 of 10 on 3s.
“You could tell from the tip that they were ready and we didn’t do a good job of defending that,” Mitchell said. “There was one play where I dunked the ball and I’m jogging back on defense like I did something, and then Justin Jackson gets a 3. Then there was a dead ball and we’re all just talking with the ref and they come back down and knock down a 3. Little things like that can’t happen.”
Rudy Gobert had 19 points and 15 rebounds, Joe Ingles scored 22 and Derrick Favors added 18 points and nine boards as the Jazz won their sixth straight against the Kings.
Seven players scored in double figures for Utah.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 23 points and seven rebounds for Sacramento. De’Aaron Fox added 21 points and seven assists.
“We played downhill, we played attacking,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We made mistakes. That’s what young teams are going to do. But really proud of our team tonight.”
Utah beat the Kings by 39 points in a preseason game less than a week earlier but got off to a sloppy start and fell behind 25-9 late in the first quarter.
Things turned around quickly for Snyder’s team.
The Jazz put up 59 points over the next 16 minutes, getting 17 from Ingles, who repeatedly scored from the perimeter after getting freed up on screens.
Ingles had 10 points in the second and Mitchell made a layup and 3-pointer to cap a 12-2 run that put the Jazz up 68-55 at halftime.
“We came out a step slow and they wanted it more than us at the beginning of the game,” Gobert said. “We had to react.”
Utah led 71-57 early in the third before Sacramento went on an 18-2 run.
Cauley-Stein’s double-double in the season opener was highlighted by a big dunk over Gobert, the 2017 defensive player of the year, in the third quarter that tied the game at 80-all. “We put the ball to Willie and let him go at him,” Joerger said. “He was aggressive and went to his chest most of the night.”
Marvin Bagley III, the second overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, had six points and five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench for the Kings. His first bucket came on a nifty 11-foot hook shot.
“Preseason kind of helped me so when I got out there it was about playing hard,” Bagley said. “Whenever my number is called I have to go hard and do whatever I can.”
Jazz: Jae Crowder picked up a technical foul in the third quarter when he shoved the ball into Nemanja Bjelica’s chest after getting fouled. … Utah missed seven of its first nine shots and had five turnovers in the first 5½ minutes. … Mitchell was 3-of-12 in the first half.
Kings: Frank Mason made a buzzer-beating 3 to end the first quarter. … Cauley-Stein was called for a technical when he said something to an official while walking off the court in the third.
Jazz: Host the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Kings: At the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports