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Utah Jazz dominate Denver in Game 2 to even the series
Orlando • Donovan Mitchell could have been deflated.
He had scored 57 points — a career-high, a franchise playoff record, and the third-most points ever scored in an NBA playoff game — only to lose in overtime of Game 1 of this first-round series. The pundits asked: If that wasn’t enough to get the Utah Jazz past the Denver Nuggets, what would be?
So Mitchell simply found another way to dominate.
The Jazz’s All-Star guard led his squad to a Game 2 victory on Wednesday by picking apart the Denver defense and finishing with 30 points (on just 14 shots) and eight assists.
“It shows his mentality, that he’s able to do what he did the other day and then tonight in a different situation where he gets different coverages and adjustments, but he continued to make the right play. For him, it shows what kind of player he is,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after his team had evened the series 1-1. “He’s about winning.”
The Jazz led by double-digits at the half despite Mitchell having just six points through the first two quarters.
“It shows you how unselfish he is because he did score, he had six at halftime and then in the third quarter we needed him to be more aggressive, shoot the ball and he had opportunities and then frankly he went back and passed it again, so he’s making the right plays,” Snyder said.
As with everything about life in the NBA Bubble, Mitchell said his postseason success is about adapting.
The Nuggets “did a great job, just trying to make it tough on me, they (stopped) it early, but for me it’s all about adapting, understanding that the lanes that were there for me in Game 1 aren’t going to be there in Game 2 and like I said, getting off the ball, trusting my teammates,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got guys who can really score, can really play, and you’ve just got to trust them. And I trust all my teammates and if they want to take me out of it just being able to find and make the right read that’s what I’ve really prided myself on, what I’m trying to do. And like I said, giving the credits to my teammates on, you know, making plays and (believing) in me then I’m going to be able to get off the ball and come back in the third quarter, which was what I did.”
Utah outscored Denver 34-23 in the second quarter and shut the door with a 43-29 third. The Nuggets got 28 points, 11 rebounds and six assists from center Nikola Jokic and 28 points from forward Michael Porter Jr. But it wasn’t enough to keep pace with a motivated Jazz squad.
The Jazz’s All-Star center Rudy Gobert provided 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the bounce-back win. Gobert’s defensive presence helped Utah win the paint battle, 48-28.
“The physicality was there, the communication was there and against this team, the number one (thing)… was to get those rebounds. I think we did a great job,” Gobert said. “They got a few offensive rebounds in the fourth (quarter), but throughout the game we did a great job. Everyone was giving up their bodies to put their body on someone and get the (basketball). And that’s it. We know that’s the key to the game against a very big team.”
Jazz sixth man Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to score 26 points in the win.
“Really it’s just to win. That’s the only motivation,” Clarkson said. “We take it one game at a time and one step at a time. We knew Game 1 was going to be a tough one, came out here and made adjustments (in) Game 2. That’s what it’s all about. My mindset coming in is just get in the paint, try and make my teammates better as long as everybody else. Coach (Snyder) told us attack the rim and kick out, look for open opportunities, when we have them take them, so it’s preached all the way down the line and when we’re playing for each other and playing together, it works well for us.”