At this point, we should be asking ourselves, “What can Donovan Mitchell NOT do?”
Sure, Mitchell didn’t lead the fifth-seed Utah Jazz in scoring on Wednesday night in their Western Conference Semifinals Game 2 matchup against the Houston Rockets. But, Mitchell turned back the clock and showed some John Stockton-type flashes, providing a franchise rookie-record 11 assists and a killer highlight reel dunk in the Jazz 166-108 win to even the series at a game apiece.
The first quarter started off with Utah providing a rapid attack on Houston’s defense. Within the first two minutes, Mitchell had four assists as the Jazz raced out to a 13-8 lead. And while Houston managed to keep the Jazz honest, the Jazz still made shots with ease. Joe Ingles led the way with three 3-pointers, and the Jazz walked out of the first quarter with a 36-28 lead.
The second quarter didn’t fare much better for Houston. While MVP front-runner James Harden began to heat up, nothing he did put a serious dent in the Utah lead. At one point, the Jazz held an 18-point lead, rendering Houston’s Clint Capela useless in the pain as they continued to pursue a balance outside attack. When they did go into the paint, they went hard, as noted by a nasty alley-oop connection from Alec Burks to Rudy Gobert with 3:12 left in the second quarter. Utah went into halftime carrying a sizeable 64-55 lead.
Coming out of the locker room, the Houston offense woke up from its first half slumber, going on a 14-5 run to start the third quarter and tie the game at 69. Houston then took their first lead since the early part of the first quarter on a Trevor Ariza jump shot, giving the Rockets a 71-69 lead. The two teams then played tug-of-war for the remainder of the quarter, with no team carrying more than a five-point lead. Ultimately, Utah won that tussle, going into the final frame with an 86-85 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Utah took it amongst themselves to put Houston away. Mitchell began to heat up again, providing two big assists to slowly break away from Houston. However, the biggest highlight for him wasn’t the assists; at the 6:11 mark, Mitchell missed a jumper, then intuitively jumped over not one, not two…but THREE Houston Rockets players to grab the rebound and finish with a nasty one-handed dunk. His teammates lost their mind on the bench, as it set the tone for the rest of the game.
Within two minutes after that dunk, Utah was up by 12, and wouldn’t trail the rest of the game.
Utah finished with six players in double figure points, led by small forward Joe Ingles, who had a career-high 27 points. Mitchell and Alec Burks tied with 17 points, Jae Crowder and Rudy Gobert tied with 15, and Derrick Favors finished with 10. Houston had four players in double figure points, led by Harden’s 32.
With Utah stealing Houston’s home court advantage, they’ll travel back to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Saturday and a chance to take a surprising series lead over the heavily favored Rockets.