Fans playing “Basketball Weirdness Bingo” could almost have had a blackout in the only first half of Game 1 on Tuesday night between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers.
A 0 for 20 shooting sequence? Check. A technical fault for mockery? Yeah. An observation from Boogie Cousins? Improbable, yes. A lane violation appeal? For the first time in ten years, yes. A load / block call canceled during a replay challenge? Really. There was even a 3 point Rajon Rondo.
And yet, once all the bizarre luck unfolding at Vivint Arena subsided, the Jazz’s 112-109 victory in their Western Conference semi-final opener against LA was finally decided. by two fairly standard occurrences: an incendiary scoring explosion from Donovan Mitchell and a blocked shot from Rudy Gobert.
The former gave Jazz fans a flu game they can remember without throwing up, overcoming illness to score Utah’s first 10 points after halftime, and losing 32 of his 45 total in the second half.
The latter, meanwhile, pushed the Clippers to pass the ball just where he wanted them to pursue their last desperate possession, spun perfectly and stretched to deflect Marcus Morris’ latest attempt to a 3 draw. just before the final horn.
“The saying ‘By any means necessary’ – I think that’s what you’ve seen from a lot of us tonight. And I think that’s what it will take to beat this team and get four wins against this team, ”said Mitchell. “We all have to do our part, whether it’s picking up all over the field, diving on loose balls, getting those long bounces, not giving them second chance points, getting into painting, to create. … What will help us win these games is that we have to do it by all means necessary.
While the stakes were obviously not as high as Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game” against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals nearly a quarter of a century ago, the performance transcendent Disease-stricken Mitchell’s match in Tuesday night’s opener was pretty impressive on its own merits nonetheless.
The all-star keeper unleashed his previously deficient team in attack – one that missed a mind-boggling 20 straight shots in the first quarter – to a huge rally in the second half.
“He’s really competitive, but he’s also very determined. I don’t think he was feeling well – a little nauseous, a little dizzy – and he’s just not going to accept it. There’s nothing he’ll let stand in the way of that, ”said coach Quin Snyder. “… The other thing is he’s not afraid to fail. He’s ready to take the next shot.
Mitchell, when asked about his coach’s revelation, initially said he hoped it hadn’t been discussed, but eventually admitted no, he didn’t feel it. Not that he was looking for excuses for a 5-for-14 shot, a 13-point first half that was only decent by the standards of his worst teammates.
“Sometimes you just have to dig deep in a different place. I was getting my ass kicked individually in the first half on both ends of the floor; I wasn’t doing the right readings, Luke [Kennard] hit a bunch of punches on me, Reggie [Jackson] hit a bunch of punches from me, and there were situations where I was lazy and I let that fatigue get to me, ”Mitchell said. “So I got to half time, I just said, ‘Look, I’m just going to find a way. “”
Or, as teammate Bojan Bogdanovic put it:
“We’re 13 behind at halftime, he probably thought,“ I have to resume the game, ”Bogdanovic said.“ He gave all this energy to the crowd, all this energy to us, the players. “
The Jazz certainly needed it after going through a first quarter that saw them miss 20 mind-blowing consecutive attempts at one point and finish 5 for 28 on the pitch in total.
It wasn’t much better in the second quarter either, as the Jazz entered the halftime break shooting 17 of 53 overall (32.1%), 7 of 27 deep (25.9 %) and behind a dozen bakers (60 -47).
Mitchell’s foray into painting for a little sweater. A 3 point pointer. Another 3. An undulating drive through traffic and up to the rim for a soft pose that made it a personal 10-2 run and rocked the crowded and frenetic Vivint Arena.
Although he scored 16 points during the period, it was hardly a solo effort.
Joined them, suddenly playing with more sparkle and effort, with Derrick Favors unleashing a defensive resurgence with a pair of blocked shots that further inflamed Viv’s crowd – first stuffing an attempt to Ivica Zubac’s dunk to force a jump ball, then turning to the weak side to intercept Rajon Rondo in the paint and crush his layup attempt in the crowd.
It was all just a pretext for Gobert’s endgame heroism.
As Mitchell kept Utah in the lead with 16 more points in the fourth quarter, while his teammates competed with a steady parry to the free throw line, it was almost inevitable that the Clippers would cut their new deficit and have a shot to save delay. their efforts to steal the first game.
The key streak of the game came naturally in the dying moments, when Gobert turned to a wide open, stretched Morris to dismiss his 3-point tying try in the corner, and the last horn sounded before Morris could attempt. another attempt.
“We had a lead of three, so obviously they needed three to tie the game. Kawhi [Leonard] had the ball, and Joe [Ingles] turned on Kawhi, so he did a great job trying to take away [a 3] and force him to drive, ”Gobert said. “And I kind of faked the help, and I knew he was going to move on to Morris for a 3. So I just tried to challenge as much as I could.”
While the cross was rather down-to-earth on the game-saving game, his teammate, understandably, was a bit more rambunctious and expansive in describing the feeling that had come over him, watching this final streak unfold.
“You kind of have a feeling that something good is going to happen. You don’t know how or what, but once I see the swing go for him, he thrives in those moments, ”Mitchell said. “He definitely hears the chatter he can’t keep outside of the painting, so these are times he lives for.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, doesn’t live for the praise that comes with a 45-point performance.
He only lives for the next opportunity to bring his team closer to victory.
” It was good. But I’m at a point where it doesn’t matter anymore, ”he said. “We are on game 2.”