Dante Exum could be the X-factor in Game 3 against Houston


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The NBA playoffs are all about adjustments. The Utah Jazz made more successful adjustments in their Game 2 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday to seize home court advantage in the Western Conference Semifinals.

“It’s in our hands,” said Donovan Mitchell, who had 17 points and 11 assists. “We control our destiny. We’ve just got to stay locked in and stay focused and come out with the same intensity we did in Game 2. But at the same time, we need to understand they’re going to come out with a response to last game.”

James Harden scored 32 points in Game 2, but  made just 9 of 22 field goal attempts, and was jus 2 of 10 from the 3-point line. A lot of the credit has to go to Dante Exum, who held the probable MVP to just 2 points when he guarded him.

“As long as I’m staying in front of him, it’s just going to frustrate him,” Exum said. “He’s used to getting by guys or stepping back and getting open shots. So, as much as possible, I need to stay in front of him and remind him that I’m there. He’s a great player, so he’s going to change a few things and come out even more aggressive tonight. I’m going to have to adjust on the fly.”

“I think it’s a mistake to overreact to one game,” cautioned head coach Quin Snyder. “Dante knows that’s a way he can help the team win, so for him to focus defensively really helped him getting himself into the game.”

Exum’s play was sorely needed with Ricky Rubio still out with a hamstring injury. Rubio will miss Game 3 tonight, but could conceivably return for Game 4.

But the Jazz are at their best when guys like Exum and Royce O’Neale and Alec Burks are making big contributions on the court. Burks scored 17 points Wednesday, but did not talk much at the postgame podium. Can the Jazz get him to open up a bit?

“I don’t know,” said Mitchell. “He talks a lot in the locker room, so for him to give the seven word answers combined, was funny.”

The national media is also not talking much about the Jazz, but the team likes being under the radar.

“There isn’t an inferiority complex or hey look at us, you haven’t talked about us,” Snyder said. “It’s not like we’re trying to impress anybody, or change anybody’s mind or have some sort of chip on our shoulder. That’s not there.”

If the Jazz win Game 3, you can be sure they will garner the attention of the entire sports world.

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