Utah Jazz fend off the Clippers to take a 2-0 series lead

Midway through the fourth quarter, after Clippers guard Reggie Jackson flexed and screamed at a crowd that had fallen quiet for the first time all night, a frustrated Donovan Mitchell walked to the bench and found an empty chair to kick.

Then the Utah Jazz kicked it into another gear.

Mitchell and the Jazz dug deep on Thursday night to fend off Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, 117-111, protect their homecourt and take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 second-round series.

“We took a punch and we were able to collect ourselves,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.

Jackson’s 3-pointer, with 6:37 to play in the game, gave L.A. its first lead of the night, bringing the Clippers all the way back from a 21-point deficit. It was the low point of the night for the Jazz, who saw their streaking offense stall out against the Clippers’ zone defense.

But it would also prove to be the start of a 14-2 run by the Jazz to retake control of the game and take a 2-0 lead with them as the series shifts to Los Angeles.

Mitchell scored a game-high 37 points on 15-of-29 shooting and dished out four assists in Game 2.

The guard needed just 3 minutes and 14 seconds to score his first 10 points (the fastest a Jazzman has hit double digits in a playoff game over the last 25 seasons, according to ESPN). By halftime, Mitchell had 27 points.

But when the All-Star guard found himself smothered by Clipper double-teams late in the game and struggling against a zone, his teammates were there to help him out.

“We’re going to have bad stretches,” Mitchell said. “We couldn’t buy a bucket when they went into the zone. It’s going to happen. The biggest thing is our will. I completely trust my teammates.”

Rudy Gobert started the run with a dunk and-one.

Royce O’Neale grabbed a key rebound and drained a 3-pointer on the other end.

And when Joe Ingles sank an open triple to put the Jazz back on top by 10, turning to the screaming crowd of 18,000-plus, the team had provided its answer.

“It’s the beauty of our team and it has been all year,” Ingles said.

Jordan Clarkson finished the night with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Gobert, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, had 13 points and 20 rebounds.

“Donovan understands how to pick his spots and we all have confidence in those other guys shooting the ball,” Snyder said. “That’s how we’ve played. That’s who we are. Guys trust in each other.”

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 16 points and put in another inspiring defensive shift to help slow down Leonard and Paul George on the perimeter.

“Bojan’s defense was superb,” Mitchell said. “He’s been taking the role and taking the challenge. We make jokes with him all the time and say that we pay him to shoot. But he’s giving us both. He’s accepted that role head on. That gives us a boost. That really changes the complexion of the game.”

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The series now heads to Los Angeles for Game 3. But after watching the Clippers rally from a 0-2 deficit in the first-round, the Jazz won’t let their guard down now.

“Don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Snyder said. “Keep playing the way we know we have to play.”

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