SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Donovan Mitchell is playing incredible basketball right now, and the Jazz are two wins away from the Western Conference Finals.
Mitchell, who scored 45 in Game 1, scored 37 in Game 2, as the Jazz took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Clippers with a 117-111 victory at Vivint Arena Thursday night.
Mitchell clinched the game with a driving shot with 43 seconds remaining but then appeared to hurt his leg slightly on a foul by Paul George with 10 seconds to play. He made one of two free throws after hobbling to the line.
“I’m great, no problems,” Mitchell said after the game. “I got hit, and it hurt. But I’m fine now. I walked in here. I can sprint if you want me to.”
Mitchell made 15 of 29 shots from the field, as the Jazz took a 21-point lead in the third quarter.
But the Clippers rallied behind 29 points from Reggie Jackson and 27 from Paul George. The Clippers came all the way back to take a 101-99 lead with 6:37 to play.
“When they played zone, our spacing broke down,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “We stopped getting stops, weren’t able to push the ball up the court. We took a punch and were able to collect ourselves. We did keep running, which is hard to do.”
But the Jazz came right back with a 14-2 run, reclaiming the lead on a three-pointer by Bojan Bogdanovic, who finished with 16 points.
The Jazz defense forced nine consecutive misses to power a 14-2 run that was capped by a Joe Ingles 3-pointer to make it 113-103 with 3:07 to play.
“We took a punch, but we were able to collect ourselves and obviously got stops late,” Snyder said.
Bogdanovic played particularly great defense on Kawhi Leonard throughout the game. Leonard finished with 21 points, four points below his season average.
“We had a discussion at the beginning of the playoffs,” Snyder said. “We got on him about getting on the glass. He said it’s the playoffs and he’s locked in.”
Mitchell scored 27 first-half points, the most by a Utah player in the last 25 years, to spark the Jazz to an early lead and then a late second-quarter push to boost Utah to a 66-53 halftime lead.
Mitchell shot 11 of 16 in the first half and did the same in the second half of Game 1. He tallied 59 points on 22-of-32 shooting over those four quarters.
“I’m going to make my imprint,” Mitchell said. “That was my mindset, I’m going to be aggressive and pick my spots.”
Mitchell is the first Jazz player with at least 35 points in back-to-back playoff games since Karl Malone in 1988, but the points became more difficult as the game wore on.
So it was his teammates who really picked it up in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t feel like I have to do everything with this team,” Mitchell said. “It’s great to have a group of guys who trust you and who you trust.”
Mitchell iced the game with a bank shot with less than a minute to play.
Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson made six three-pointers, adding 24 points off the bench, while Joe Ingles finished with 19 points and four assists. NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert had 13 points, and a career playoff-high 20 rebounds to go along with three blocked shots.
The Jazz played its second straight game without starting point guard Mike Conley, who is out with a hamstring strain.
Utah is 8-0 all-time in s best-of-seven series when leading two games to none. But the Clippers just erased a 2-0 deficit against Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
“We know we’re playing a team that went down 0-2 in their last series, so we’re not getting too high or too low,” Snyder said. “We were resilient tonight and we were mentally tough.”
Game 3 is Saturday night in Los Angeles at 6:30 p.m. on ABC4.