Kings' Mitchell treats Warriors to ‘Off Night' experience


SACRAMENTO – The Kings had two glaring concerns heading into their first playoff run in 17 years.

The first was a lack of playoff experience, an intangible only reps and confidence could solve. The second was the team’s defensive issues, backed up by a flurry of concerning advanced stats. Surely, the team that ranked 24th in defensive rating during the regular season couldn’t magically turn it on against Steph Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.

Game 2 proved otherwise. Sacramento harassed Golden State throughout all four quarters of its 114-106 victory, led by its best stopper Davion Mitchell, who put on a special performance that lives up to his “Off Night” nickname on the biggest stage of his career.

Mitchell shadowed Curry for a good chunk of his 28 minutes on the floor in Game 2. Curry registered a team-high 28 points but missed 10 of 13 attempts from deep. He’s now shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range this series.

“I don’t know if he can do a better job,” Kings coach Mike Brown said of Mitchell’s effort against Curry in Game 2.

“When a guy scores 28, you think that somebody did a halfway decent job on him. But Steph is the greatest of the great. You’re not stopping him. You’re not slowing him down. You just want to try your best to make him work. That’s all Davion is doing. He’s trying like the dickens to make Steph work.”

The Kings created chaos on defense, coming up with 24 deflections and 11 steals. They scored 25 points off the Warriors’ 22 turnovers. Mitchell, with a pair of steals himself, had his fingerprints all over the defensive effort.

“I go against [Mitchell] every day in practice,” Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said after the game. “That’s why you see what I’m doing out here, because I’m not going against Davion out here. He’s made me a better player since he’s been here.

“Obviously he has the nickname ‘Off Night,’ but I don’t think people realize how he moves laterally, and how strong he actually is.”

It wasn’t just on the defensive end that Mitchell shined, either.

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When the Kings' starters struggled to get much going offensively in the first quarter, Mitchell came off the bench and knocked down 3 of 5 field-goal attempts for nine points in the first half.

His number was called again in the fourth. With 1:19 remaining and the Kings leading by six points, Mitchell found himself open in the corner with a chance to put all threats of a Warriors comeback to bed.

He cashed it for a nine-point lead right in front of the Kings' bench. The shot secured a two-games-to-none lead for Sacramento as the series shifts to San Francisco for Game 3 and Game 4.

The dagger 3-pointer will be the play that follows Mitchell around in highlight reels to come. But for him, it's all about the other end of the floor.

“I think a lot of people look at basketball as it’s kind of all about offense but it’s really not," Mitchell said. "It’s about the little things you do defensively, rebounding, little things like that. Offense is a big piece but in the playoffs it’s going to be tough, it’s a lot of physicality, a lot of calls are not being made just because it’s the playoffs.

"So, I know you’ve got to be locked in defensively especially at times like this."

Mitchell, the face of the Kings' growing defensive identity, had a signature night in Game 2. It was an "Off Night" for the opposition on the floor wearing white.

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