Photo by Bill Baptist

The Roundup—Jazz shock Rockets in Game 2 to even series

by Matt Payne

After getting blown out in Game 1, the Jazz bounced back in a big way with a 116-108 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals Wednesday night.

With the series tied 1-1, Utah will now return home to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Friday night.

The Jazz built a 19-point lead that evaporated shortly after halftime, but they fought back to outscore the Rockets 30-23 in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

"It's in our character to withstand that run. In OKC in Game 5 we were up by 25 and let the lead go, so we couldn't do that again," Donovan Mitchell said after the game. "Danté Exum, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles—everybody stepped up and played well. We'll take this win, but we know we've got three more."

Ingles led the Jazz with 27 points, while Rudy Gobert double-doubled with 15 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in the win.

Mitchell struggled from the field (6-for-21 shooting), but he still finished with 17 points, five rebounds, 11 assists (a new career high), two steals and a game-high net rating of +13.

Burks (17 points), Jae Crowder (15 points) and Derrick Favors (10 points) also scored in double figures for the Jazz.

Utah once again played without starting point guard Ricky Rubio (hamstring).

James Harden led the Rockets with a game-high 32 points, and he added six rebounds and 11 assists. Chris Paul (23 points, three steals), Clint Capela (21 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks), and Eric Gordon (15 points on 5-for-16 shooting) also scored in double figures in the loss.

Wednesday's Best

Ingles got Utah rolling with three early 3-pointers—and then he kept them in it through Houston's third-quarter run with 13 second-half points. Ingles shot 10-for-13 from the field (including 7-for-9 from three, a new franchise record for 3-pointers made in a playoff game) en route to a career-high 27 points, and he even found time to pick up (along with Paul) a double technical foul in the first half.

Key Stretches

The Jazz started off strong on both ends, playing tight defense on Harden and moving the ball on offense. The result was an 18-11 lead midway through the first quarter. Ingles made three 3-pointers, while Favors and Gobert threw down dunks. Royce O'Neale sliced down the lane for a dunk, and Mitchell forced a Houston timeout with a driving layup of his own. Mitchell had five assists in the game's first five minutes.

Utah kept going, extending the lead to as many as 11 before ending the first quarter with an eight-point advantage. Crowder came off the bench to make two threes, while Burks added a layup. Exum was glued to Harden on the defensive end as Houston's superstar finished the first quarter with only four points on 1-for-3 shooting. Utah, meanwhile, shot 63.6 percent from the field in the first period.

Burks opened the second period with a three-point play, and then (after a steal by Favors) O'Neale hit an open three to give Utah an 11-point lead. Favors put in an alley-oop layup (from Raul Neto), Burks banked in a reverse layup, and Crowder hit a free throw to push Utah's lead to 14. After two Houston baskets, Mitchell dished to Gobert (for a dunk) and to Burks (for another layup). Ingles found Gobert for another dunk and, after a Houston timeout, Gobert stuffed Harden at the rim and Mitchell canned a 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 19-point lead.

Mitchell, though, picked up his third foul with 4:09 left in the second quarter and hit the bench for the rest of the half. The Rockets responded with a 14-6 run to whittle Utah's lead from 17 down to nine at halftime.

Houston started the third quarter on a 20-7 run to take the lead, with two buckets by Ingles (a baseline jumper and a stepback three) as Utah's only points. Houston built a five-point lead and had the momentum, but a three by Mitchell and driving layup by Burks tied the game with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. After a Harden dunk, Exum hit a corner three and then found Favors for an alley-oop dunk to give the Jazz a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The teams matched buckets early in the fourth, with Ingles and Exum hitting big jumpers to keep Utah even with Houston, and then Crowder nailed a three and Mitchell stuffed home his own miss to push Utah's lead to six with 6:12 remaining. After a bucket by Harden, Ingles drilled a corner three. Free throws by Gobert and Mitchell and another big three by Ingles put Utah up by 12 with 4:25 left in the game.

The Jazz led by 10 with 2:35 left but then missed their next two shots and committed a turnover. P.J Tucker missed a corner three, though, and Exum spun around his defender and slammed home a one-handed dunk to give Utah a 115-105 lead with 55.3 seconds remaining. After a three by Paul, Mitchell drove in for another layup. A turnover by Paul—forced by Gobert's defense on the perimeter—iced the victory for Utah.

Significant Stats

15

The Jazz shot 51.8 percent from the field and were especially hot from deep, shooting 15-for-32 (46.9 percent) from beyond the arc. Ingles (7-for-9), Crowder (3-for-6), Exum (2-for-3) and Mitchell (2-for-8) led the way. Houston, which led the NBA in threes per game (15.3) during the regular season, shot only 10-for-37 (27.0 percent) from 3-point range.

+19

Utah got a huge boost from its bench, as Burks (17 points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block), Crowder (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Exum (nine points, four rebounds, two assists, 18 minutes of in-Harden's-face defense) combined to outscore Houston's reserves 41-22.

24

The Rockets had won 24 of their past 25 home games.

Coach's Quote of the Night

"[Donovan] made good decisions in the pick-and-roll. Obviously we wanted him to shoot it too, but when they took that away our spacing was better and he was finding people."

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Notable

The Jazz snapped an 11-game losing streak in the Western Conference Semifinals. ... Before the game, it was reported that Jazz assistant coach Igor Kokoskov agreed to become the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns. ... The Jazz struggled once again from the free-throw line, shooting only 15-for-25 (60.0 percent) as a team. ... Utah committed 17 turnovers, which led to 12 Houston points. ... Tucker finished with five points and 10 rebounds. ... The Jazz held the Rockets to only five transition points.

Up Next

The Jazz will return home to face the Rockets in Game 3 on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 8:30pm MT and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.