Nicole Perez

The Roundup—Jazz even series with comeback victory over OKC

by Matt Payne

Tense.

Physical.

Dramatic.

And in the end, victorious.

In a roller coaster of a game, the Jazz led by nine and trailed by 10 before storming back to steal a 102-95 road win over the Thunder in Game 2 Wednesday night.

The best-of-seven series is now even at one game apiece.

"We just came out and were aggressive," Utah's Derrick Favors said after the win. "We played as a team and played good team defense. We contested a lot of their shots. Everybody did their part."

Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 28 points, while Favors exploded for 20 points and 16 rebounds. Ricky Rubio stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.

Rudy Gobert (13 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals, three blocks) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) also scored in double figures for the Jazz in the win.

Russell Westbrook (19 points, nine rebounds, 13 assists, four steals), Paul George (18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) and Carmelo Anthony (17 points, nine rebounds) led the way for the Thunder.

Wednesday's Best

With Gobert limited by early foul trouble, Favors stepped up and absolutely took over. He set a new playoff career high with 20 points, and he also battled for a game-high 16 rebounds (including eight on the offensive glass) against one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. Favors shot 8-for-14 from the field, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range, and he added three assists and a steal in 37 huge minutes.

After a slow start, Mitchell exploded down the stretch with 20 of his 28 points in the final 13 minutes. The rookie put team's stagnating offense on his back and almost single-handedly willed the Jazz back into the game after they fell behind by 10. Mitchell shot 10-for-25 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line, and he also had six rebounds, two assists and a steal in 43 minutes.

Key Stretches

Utah got off to a strong start for the second straight game, jumping out to a quick 9-0 lead. Mitchell opened the scoring with a steal and layup, Favors knocked down a corner three, and Gobert scored two times at the rim to get things rolling for the Jazz.

Back-to-back threes (by Rubio and Joe Ingles) gave Utah a 40-34 lead midway through the second period. After a free throw by OKC's Steven Adams, Mitchell found Jerebko sprinting ahead for a transition slam. The Jazz would take a 53-46 lead into halftime.

The Jazz built their lead to nine midway through the third quarter—thanks to nine points from Favors and a three by Rubio—but then the wheels came off for the Jazz. Seven missed shots (including a botched dunk by Mitchell and several other wide-open misses) and five turnovers (including an eight-second violation by Rubio) led to 19 straight points for OKC over a six-minute period.

That's when Mitchell stepped up. Two free throws, a three-point play and a driving dunk by the rookie pulled Utah back within five at the end of the third quarter. Danté Exum grabbed a steal and dished to Jerebko for a layup to open the fourth quarter, and then three free throws and a tough floater in the lane by Mitchell (who was being hounded by Westbrook) gave the Jazz an 81-80 lead. A free throw by Favors and a corner three by Rubio pushed Utah's lead to five and forced a Thunder timeout.

The teams went back and forth down the stretch, with each making tough shots. Mitchell slashed into the lane for a bucket, and Rubio drilled a corner three (after a dunk by Adams). Gobert then took the ball in the post and forced Adams—OKC's key presence in the paint—into his sixth foul with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter. Gobert proceeded to make two free throws to give Utah a four-point lead. Westbrook and Mitchell hit two free throws each and, after yet another tough rebound in traffic by Favors, Mitchell put George in the spin cycle for a bucket to push Utah's lead to six with just 1:33 left. Anthony missed two long 3-pointers and Gobert hit two free throws with 21.1 seconds left to ice the win for the Jazz.

Significant Stats

33

The Jazz didn't shoot it well from the free-throw line (69.7 percent) but they got there 33 times and made 23. Gobert (7-for-12) was especially aggressive driving to the rim. OKC went only 12-for-18 (66.7 percent) from the line.

2

The Jazz held OKC's big three of Westbrook, George and Anthony to only 54 points (nearly 10 below their season average of 63.5) on 19-for-58 (32.8 percent) shooting. The trio combined to score only two points on 0-for-14 shooting in the fourth quarter.

+10

Led by Favors (16 rebounds) and Gobert (15 rebounds), the Jazz outrebounded the Thunder 56-46, including 15-10 on the offensive glass—which led to a 20-9 advantage in second-chance points.

Coach's Quote of the Night

"As much as anything, I think our team stayed together. There was a determination, and we felt like we just needed to rely on our defense—and that's what we did. Obviously, Donovan's aggressiveness on the offensive end fueled us there."

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Notable

Rubio shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range. ... Ingles scored only three points on 1-for-6 shooting, but he still finished with a game-high net rating of +21 in 34 minutes. ... Utah's ball security was less than ideal as Oklahoma City scored 29 points off of the Jazz's 16 turnovers. ... Jerami Grant scored 13 points off the bench for OKC. ... The Jazz outscored the Thunder 50-40 in the paint. ... After shooting 8-for-11 from 3-point range in Game 1, George went 4-for-12 in Game 2.

Up Next

The Jazz will return home for Game 3 against the Thunder on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 8:00pm MT. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.