Mitchell, In­gles lift Jazz over Rock­ets

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SPORTS - By Kristie Rieken

HOUS­TON >> Utah had a four-point lead in the fourth quar­ter on Wed­nes­day night when Dono­van Mitchell missed a jumper and sailed above three Hous­ton Rock­ets to grab the re­bound and fin­ish with a nifty one-handed slam.

He did it right near the Jazz bench and his team­mates went wild, cheer­ing and pre­tend­ing to fall back­ward on each other in awe.

Joe In­gles led the Jazz with a ca­reer-high 27 points, but it was the star rookie who pro­vided the high­light of the night as the Jazz evened the Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals 1-1 with a 116-108 win.

In­gles made a ca­reer-best seven 3-point­ers and Mitchell added 17 points and a fran­chise rookie-record 11

as­sists for his first game this post­sea­son where he scored fewer than 20 points and didn’t lead the team in scor­ing.

But he cer­tainly pro­vided an emo­tional boost to his team with his high­light-reel wor­thy play. He smiled broadly when it was brought up postgame, and said he was just try­ing to get the re­bound on his miss when he made a split-sec­ond de­ci­sion.

“I just hap­pened to be up there,” he said. “So I said: ‘Why come down with it?’”

The Jazz squan­dered a huge early lead be­fore us­ing a big fourth quar­ter to re­gain con­trol and head home for Game 3 on Fri­day in Utah with a chance to take a se­ries lead over the top-seeded Rock­ets.

Hous­ton coach Mike D’An­toni said Mitchell was the key to the win even though he didn’t lead the team in scor­ing.

“He was break­ing us down,” D’An­toni said. “He was get­ting in there and was find­ing guys in the cor­ner. He’s a hand­ful whether he’s fin­ish­ing or not.”

The Jazz were be­hind by two with eight min­utes left be­fore us­ing a 16-2 run to pull away.

Af­ter trail­ing by 25 points at half­time of the 110-96 loss in the se­ries opener, the Jazz jumped out to an early lead in this one and led by as many as 19 in the first half.

“Last game, we came out com­pletely op­po­site. Tonight, they kind of caught us off-guard,” Hous­ton’s James Har­den said. “We ad­justed to it in that sec­ond quar­ter, but we can’t get down 19 no mat­ter who we’re play­ing.”

Hous­ton re­gained the lead in the third quar­ter but couldn’t keep pace with the Jazz in the fourth as their nor­mally po­tent of­fense went cold.

Har­den had 32 points and 11 as­sists, and Chris Paul added 23 points as Hous­ton fell to the Jazz for the first time this sea­son af­ter win­ning the first five meet­ings.

Jazz coach Quin Sny­der was pleased at his team’s bal­anced scor­ing ef­fort on a night six play­ers fin­ished in dou­ble fig­ures, and he raved about the con­tri­bu­tion of In­gles.

“Ev­ery time Joe has needed to step up his game, he has been able to,” Sny­der said. “He’s com­mit­ted to that. He knew tonight he would need to make some shots and he was able to do it.”

Hous­ton was down by one en­ter­ing the fourth but Utah scored eight straight points on 3-point­ers from Dante Exum and Jae Crow­der be­fore Mitchell’s dunk made it 100-94.

Har­den made a bas­ket af­ter that be­fore Utah scored an­other eight straight points, with two 3s from In­gles, to make it 108-96 with 4½ min­utes left.

Har­den ended a 2½-minute Hous­ton scor­ing drought with a 3-pointer about a minute later that was the start of a 9-3 run that got the Rock­ets within 111-105 with 1:46 left. But Rudy Gobert made one of two free throws be­fore Exum put it out of reach with a dunk.

Utah led by nine be­fore Hous­ton used a 16-5 run to go up 71-69 for its first lead since it was 6-5 with about seven min­utes left in the third. The Jazz went back up 86-85 by the end of the pe­riod.

Af­ter tak­ing just four shots in Game 1 and fin­ish­ing with 11 points, Gobert got go­ing early Wed­nes­day and had 13 points on 5-of-7 shoot­ing by half­time. But he was mostly quiet af­ter the break, and fin­ished with 15 points and 14 re­bounds.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jazz for­ward Joe In­gles launched a shot against the Hous­ton Rock­ets in the sec­ond half. In­gles hit seven 3-point­ers and scored a ca­reer-high 27 points to help Utah tie the se­ries at 1-1.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Hous­ton Rock­ets guard James Har­den, left, drove to the bas­ket and was chal­lenged by Utah Jazz guard Dono­van Mitchell dur­ing the first half of Game 2 of the play­off se­ries in Hous­ton on Wed­nes­day.

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