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April 11, 2021
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'A lot of fun': Jazz players, coach revel in being most represented team at All-Star Game

SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell had a pretty good idea of what Quin Snyder’s game plan was for Team LeBron in the All-Star Game.

“I think he took what we did during the season as far as shooting threes and just told them to shoot farther, tougher shots,” Mitchell said.

Well, when you’ve got Steph Curry and Damian Lillard on your team, it’s best to take advantage of it. Snyder led his team to a 170-150 win over Mitchell and Team Durant on Sunday in Atlanta. And, yes, it was one of those farther and tougher 3s that ended the game with Lillard pulling up from just inside the half-court line and drilling a triple to get Team LeBron to the target score of 170.

But Snyder isn’t about to take any credit for anything that happened on Sunday.

“(I coached) as much as they wanted me to, which was a couple plays in a couple situations,” Snyder said. “Kind of help out any way you can, but I think they pretty much have it covered.”

He was just part of the ride. He said it was a thrill to just be at the game; to look out onto the court and not just see All-Stars, but also former Hall of Famers. It only added to the thrill that three of his players were there, too.

The Jazz were well-represented in Atlanta. Mitchell, who played for Team Durant, had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes; Rudy Gobert had 10 points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes for Team LeBron; and Mike Conley, who made his long-awaited All-Star debut, had 3 points and two assists in 12 minutes for Team Durant.

The Jazz players didn’t play a huge role in the eventual outcome, but they had plenty of fun moments, including a debut that Conley never would have seen coming.

On Conley’s first-ever play in an All-Star Game, he did something he hadn’t for years: He faced up against Chris Paul for the opening tip to start the second quarter. Unfortunately for Conley, he lost the jumping match, but that was really the only negative part about the whirlwind day.

“I was not prepared for the tip,” Conley said with a chuckle. “I was told that I was going out there and getting ready to guard somebody and I’m looking back (and the bench said), ‘Mike go jump.’ I wish I would have won the tip, but outside of that it was a great experience — a lot of fun.”

In the first half, Mitchell leaked inside for a layup right next to Gobert. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year could have swatted it away, but he thought he’d let his usual teammate have a free one.

“He was supposed to go block my layup — I thought he was going to, I didn’t have the legs to try and dunk it,” Mitchell said.

Said Gobert: “I let him get the first layup. After that, I told him I wouldn’t let him get any more. He got kind of scared in the second half. I thought he was gonna try something, but he didn’t — smart decision.”

Mitchell didn’t return the favor of letting his teammate have a free pass. When Gobert got the ball right next to the hoop, Mitchell bear hugged him to avoid what surely would have been a dunk.

“All fun trash talking — I had to foul him, had to make sure he didn’t get up there,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell did hit a 3 over the long arms of Gobert in the second half — not as exciting as a challenge at the rim, but easier (and safer), too.

There was a bit of drama involving Conley. He was the last All-Star to get on the board on Sunday, waiting until late in the third quarter to score his first points. Mitchell said he and the team had been trying to find ways to get him a bucket and so there was some relief when Conley knocked down a 3-pointer in the final minutes of the third quarter.

And that shot was all Conley needed.

“Once I got the bucket I was like, ‘I’m good, man, you can take me out. Let these young guys run around and put on a show.'” Conley said.

All in all, it was a successful game and weekend for the Jazz, who were the most represented team at the game. Utah was one of only two teams to have three All-Stars (the Brooklyn Nets being the other), and were the only squad to have all three play. And they brought their coach along with them. That all made for a special day for the organization.

“It was fun to be out there with those guys,” Snyder said.

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