Mitchell has put much of the blame on his shoulders for the Rockets jumping out to insurmountable leads in the first two games of the series, calling himself out for playing too passively, particularly in Game 2. He averaged 15.0 points on 32.4 percent shooting from the floor in the Jazz's two blowout losses in Houston and has more turnovers (nine) than assists (six) in the series.
"Obviously, it really can't get any lower than the effort and performance that I gave," Mitchell said after Friday's practice. "I mean, you can only get better from there.
"They just out-toughed us, outplayed us. It started with the first play of [Game 2]. Eric [Gordon] set the tone, got a turnover and they came down and scored. I dribbled off my foot, he beats me down the floor, I got a stupid foul, and-1. From that point on, it was just that mindset, and I think that's really all it is, is a mindset. You can do X's and O's all you want, but it's really just a mindset about how hard you want to play."
Mitchell proved as a rookie last season that he's capable of thriving on the playoff stage. He averaged 28.5 points in the first round against the Oklahoma City Thunder, including 38 points when the Jazz finished the series in Game 6.
However, Mitchell has struggled in the postseason against the Rockets. He averaged 19.4 points on 36 percent shooting from the floor as Houston eliminated Utah in five games in last season's Western Conference semifinals, when he had to play a lot of point guard with Ricky Rubio sidelined by a hamstring strain.
Mitchell has respect for the Rockets' defense, which features physical perimeter players and a terrific rim protector, Clint Capela, who is mobile enough to be effective as an isolation defender on switches. But Mitchell says he hasn't been as aggressive as he should be, whether it's attacking the basket, fighting to get open or making plays for teammates.
"It's not a question of just running through a wall," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It's running with force, but then avoiding the wall, so to speak. That's another way to run through it. I think, watching some film with him and showing him some of those situations where he knows he can apply that is the biggest thing.
"There's a fine line between just swinging and boxing. He's got to throw punches, but they've got to be well placed and well timed, and some of them are going to be counters."
Rubio said after Game 2 that he thought the Jazz's primary issue was "not playing with confidence." Snyder stressed the importance of mental toughness while competing against a Houston team that's capable of making plays even when the Jazz execute well.
Mitchell cited Rubio's competitiveness defending Rockets star James Harden -- who is averaging 30.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists in the series -- as being indicative of the fight the Jazz need to have to make the series competitive.
"We aren't afraid," Mitchell said of defending Harden. "Everybody out here is making it seem like -- I almost cursed and cost me some money -- like it's a big deal. No, we have the confidence to guard. Ricky, when he got into his face, that's the toughness that we're talking about. No one is really afraid. It's not like we're out here saying, 'OK, let him score.' We're trying to do everything we can to disrupt him. He's been getting to where he wants, but we've got to find ways to stop that."