SALT LAKE CITY – – Donovan Mitchell didn’t feel like usual for an entire half.
The Utah Jazz goalie had nausea and dizziness before halftime on Tuesday night. He felt even worse after his individual performances in attack and defense.
“I didn’t do a lot of things well for my team in the first half, and it gnawed at me,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell did almost everything right in the second half.
He scored 45 points and took the Jazz to a 112-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series.
Mitchell imposed his will offensively after halftime, scoring 32 points to rally the Jazz from a double-digit deficit. Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic collected 18 points each. Mitchell and Clarkson combined for 12 3-pointers.
Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points to lead Los Angeles. Paul George had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Luke Kennard added 18 points while setting a record four to 3 points.
Utah and Los Angeles will play Game 2 on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
“We had a pretty good pace in the first half,” said Leonard. “We got into the third quarter quite flat, but it’s a good defensive team. They played hard tonight and they fought the whole game.
The Jazz trailed up to 14 points before rallying and overtaking the Clippers in the fourth quarter. Utah took the lead in earnest in a 21-9 run blocked by Bogdanovic’s 3 points. His second gave the Jazz a 103-93 lead with 5:22 remaining.
George scored 3 points to reduce the deficit to 112-109 in the last minute. But Rudy Gobert blocked a potentially equalizing shot Marcus Morris with a second left to preserve the victory.
“Personally, I enjoy these moments,” said Gobert. “I embrace these moments.”
The Jazz turned icy on offense in the first quarter. Utah took a 10-2 lead after Mitchell made a pair of 3s. Over the next 8.5 minutes, the Jazz missed 20 consecutive shots. 15 of the 20 shots were contested by the Clippers. Utah started 3 of 25 on the field before Clarkson buried a corner three to break the ice.
“We had games where we didn’t shoot well,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “These are the games where you have to rely on your defense. What I’m happy about is that we haven’t stopped filming. We have tried to look better.
Los Angeles capitalized on the long drought with a 22-2 streak. Kennard buried three 3 points to put the Clippers ahead 24-12 at the end of the quarter.
Hot outside shots backed Los Angeles in the second quarter and held Utah at bay. The Clippers got 7 of 12 out of a 3-point range in the quarter. Four of those baskets came in a streak in which they scored on six straight possessions, culminating with Rajon Rondo’s outside basket, to extend their lead to 51-37.
“We did a great job in the first half and then came out a bit slow in the third quarter, not making the right play and not making any shots as they kind of started offensively,” said l coach of the Clippers Tyronne Lue.
Mitchell took over from the start of the third quarter. He scored four straight baskets to open the quarter and totaled 16 points in nine minutes. His efforts helped the Jazz regain a 72-71 lead at the end of a 13-4 streak. Mitchell scored back-to-back baskets to fuel the run and assisted Royce O’Neale’s go-ahead layup.
“I’m just happy with the way I was able to control the pace,” said Mitchell. “It’s something I’ve tried to make progress with throughout my career. “
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (back spasms) did not play. … DeMarcus Cousins made his playoff debut and finished with six points and three rebounds in four minutes. Cousins did not appear in any of the first round games against Dallas. … George went 4 of 17 to the field.
Jazz: Mike Conley (right hamstring strain) didn’t play. … Mitchell shot 11 of 17 from the field in the second half. … Gobert and O’Neale combined for 23 rebounds. … Utah did not score a two-point basket in the first quarter, dropping 0 of 8 inside the 3-point line.
The Jazz welcomed its first full capacity crowd to Vivint Arena since March 9, 2020. The arena can accommodate 18,300 people. This created a boisterous atmosphere to the point that the noise from the crowd drowned out comments from the TNT team calling the game at times.
“We really felt it throughout the game. It wasn’t just at the end or in the key moments, ”said Gobert. “Having this crowd behind us really gave us a big boost.”
Gobert’s late-game block underscored a dominant defensive effort for the Jazz throughout the second half. Utah allowed just six total baskets in the third quarter and limited the Clippers to 5 of 19 shots from the perimeter in the final 20 minutes. The Jazz also edged Los Angeles 24-18 in post-halftime rebounds.
“They’re playing physically, so we have to be more physical in the next game, get to our places, go to the basket, keep attacking the paint,” said Kennard. “They make us work.
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