SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For a while, it looked like the Los Angeles Clippers had the Utah Jazz number. Then Donovan Mitchell matched it.
Number 45 scored 45 points as the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of the Western Conference Semifinals, 112-109.
Mitchell scored 32 of his 45 points in the second half, as the Utah Jazz rallied from a 14-point deficit to win Game 1.
Game 2 is Thursday night at Vivint Arena at 8:00 p.m.
Mitchell, who struggled with a bout of nausea and light-headedness before halftime, made 16 of 30 shots for his fourth 40-point playoff game of his career. That ties him with Karl Malone for the most in Jazz franchise history. Mitchell has done it in 28 playoff games, while Malone played in 193.
“I didn’t do a lot of things right for my team in the first half and it ate at me,” Mitchell said. “The saying ‘By any means necessary,’ that’s what you saw from a lot of us tonight,” Mitchell said. “We’ve all got to do our part. Whether it’s diving on the floor, or whatever. If you make a mistake, make an aggressive one. That’s what we did in the second half.”
“He’s just amazing,” said Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 18 points. “We’re down 13 at halftime, he probably thought, ‘I’ve gotta take over the game.’ He gave all that energy to the crowd, all that energy to us players.”
The Clippers had a chance to tie the game at the end, but Marcus Morris’ three-pointer was blocked by Rudy Gobert.
“I kind of faked help and knew they were going to go to Morris,” Gobert said. “So I just tried to contest as best as I could. Personally, I enjoy those moments. I embrace those moments.”
The Jazz played without All-Star point guard Mike Conley, who was held out because of a hamstring strain.
Jordan Clarkson added 18 points off the bench, while Rudy Gobert had 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Kawhi Leonard scored 23, while Paul George added 20 for the Clippers.
The Jazz struggled out of the gates, missing 21 straight shots at one point, and fell behind 25-18 at the end of the first quarter.
“We came out flat, we were rushing shots,” Gobert said. “We knew that in the second half, Donovan was gonna come out aggressive. He did a great job not settling for jump shots, but attacking them.”
The Clippers went on a 22-2 run to extend its lead to 60-47 at the half before Mitchell led a furious third quarter rally. Mitchell scored 10 points in the first 2:17 of the quarter as the Jazz came all the way back to tie the game at 79 headed to the fourth.
Utah took the lead for good on a 21-9 run bookended by 3-pointers from Bogdanovic. His second one gave the Jazz a 103-93 lead with 5:22 remaining.
“As the game progressed, we did a good job of talking through some situations,” Snyder said. “That’s always a really good sign when your guys are communicating like that.”
The Clippers rallied to cut the deficit to three, but were thwarted on its final possession.
“We had a pretty good rhythm in the first half,” Leonard said. “We came in the third quarter pretty flat, but they are good defensive team. They played hard tonight, and they fought the whole game.”
While Mitchell was spectacular and the Jazz now have the series lead, Donovan knows his work is just beginning.
“This was good,” Mitchell said. :But I’m at a point where it doesn’t matter anymore. We’re on to Game 2. I’ve got do this three more times. We’ve got to win three more.”
The Jazz shot 40.7 percent from the field, and were 17 of 50 from 3-point range. The Jazz held the Clippers to 42.4 percent shooting.
Royce O’Neale added eight points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz.
For the first time this season, the Jazz opened the entire arena, and 18,000 screaming fans filled Vivint Arena.