Thunder look for better finish vs. Mitchell, Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Donovan Mitchell is doing everything he can to bolster his case to win Rookie of the Year honors during the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Mitchell took over the fourth quarter to help the Utah Jazz claim a 102-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and even the series at 1-1. He scored 13 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. It helped the Jazz erase a double-digit third-quarter deficit and gave them room to pull away late.
"The thing about Donovan's game is he just continued to attack," Utah coach Quin Snyder said after the game. "I thought when he really got aggressive going to the rim, some other things opened up."
Stopping the first-year guard on late game possessions will obviously top the Thunder's agenda when the series returns to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Saturday night. Executing such a defensive plan will be easier said than done.
Mitchell is averaging 27.5 points through the first two games in the series. He has scored 55 points in his first two playoff games, which is the most by a guard in NBA history.
His efforts have been complemented by aggressive play from Derrick Favors around the basket. Favors is averaging 13.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the postseason and posted career playoff highs in points (20) and rebounds (16) in Game 2 against the Thunder.
At one point, he had snared eight offensive rebounds through 2 1/2 quarters. Oklahoma City had only six offensive rebounds as a team through the same stretch.
"It definitely helped me for the rest of the game, just trying to find ways to be aggressive and make an impact," Favors said.
The Thunder are looking to regain an edge in Game 3 after getting off to another slow start and enduring an even worse finish in Game 2. Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George combined for two points on 0-of-14 shooting in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City managed just 16 points in the fourth quarter.
It allowed Mitchell to go on a tear and erase a 77-67 third-quarter lead built behind a 19-0 run.
"We just didn't make shots in that fourth quarter," Anthony said. "We worked so hard in the third quarter to get the lead back and played so well to get back and go up (10) in that third quarter. Fourth quarter, we just didn't shoot the ball well."
It didn't help that Steven Adams was limited by foul trouble. He picked up two early fouls in the first half, played just 22 minutes, and eventually fouled out with 2:48 left.
With Adams out for large stretches, Favors and Gobert were able to do plenty of damage around the basket. He could not find a way to reverse momentum when he was out there.
"I don't think Steven was ever able to get into a flow or rhythm for himself because he was battling foul trouble," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Utah and Oklahoma City split two games in Salt Lake City in the regular season. The Jazz won the first meeting 96-87 on Oct. 21 behind 19 points from Joe Ingles and 16 points and 13 rebounds from Rudy Gobert. The Thunder took the second game 103-89 on Dec. 23 behind 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists from Westbrook.
Updated April 21, 2018