The Utah Jazz seized home-court advantage from the top-seeded Houston Rockets in their second-round playoff series on Wednesday with a 116-108 victory at the Toyota Center, but guard Donovan Mitchell was already focused on Game 3 in front of the home fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Houston was down by one entering the fourth but Utah scored eight straight points on 3-pointers from Dante Exum and Jae Crowder before Mitchell's dunk made it 100-94. The Rockets were better than the Jazz throughout the season, and one game doesn't erase that.
Mitchell had 17 points and a franchise rookie-record 11 assists for his first game this postseason where he scored fewer than 20 points and didn't lead the team in scoring.
"They came out with some thrust in that first half", Harden told reporters after the game.
The Raptors gave away game one Tuesday, but they get a chance to make up for that Thursday. We came out a little too lackadaisical.
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After trailing by 25 points at halftime of the 110-96 loss in the series opener, the Jazz bolted to an early lead in this one and led by as many as 19 in the first half. Ingles was a ideal three for three from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter alone.
It was all about closing from there, and with Mitchell handling the offense, Ingles shooting his face off (27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 7-of-9 from 3) and some timely bench production, the Jazz responded after their lackluster Game 1 performance.
Ingles scorched the Rockets from the opening tip, scoring 11 of the Jazz's first 18 points.
Utah also earned a split in the first two road games in its opening-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder and took advantage by winning Games 3 and 4 at home to take control of the series.
Jazz small forward Joe Ingles, a frequent playful critic of his rookie teammate, joked that Mitchell made a poor decision by attempting his highlight dunk.
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It just has to be a 60-minute effort. "I don't think anybody really knew", Washington forward Brett Connolly said. I said hey, what's going on? "Obviously it's an emotional game and a lot of things happen".
YES, that really just happened.
"We had some time to think about, and talk about what we do", Ingles said post-game. And surely I don't have to remind you of prior playoff struggles from the Rockets' two stars, Chris Paul and James Harden. But give them a lot of credit. The Jazz went back up 86-85 by the end of the period.
Meanwhile, Houston shot only 10-of-37 on 3-pointers. From that point, it was about getting to halftime for the Jazz, holding off the inevitable Houston flurry, in whatever form it might take. So they made adjustments, especially on the pick and roll. He then added four more assists in the fourth quarter to finish with 11 for the game, a new career-high.
We know Mitchell is an explosive scorer, but developing as a playmaker will be a key factor in determining his ceiling. "So I figured, why not come down with it?"
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