Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert (27) and Royce O’Neale (23) defend against Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, center, during the first half of Game 1 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Salt more city.
Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (2) and Marcus Morris Sr. (8) defending against Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first half of Game 1 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Los Angeles Clippers’ DeMarcus Cousins (15) and Luke Kennard (5) defend against Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles during the first half of Game 1 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Salt Lake City.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, scores to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of Game 1 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Salt Lake City.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, center, while Utah Jazz’s Royce O’Neale, left, and Donovan Mitchell defend during the first half of Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Salt Lake City.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell didn’t feel like his usual self for half the time.
The Utah Jazz guard struggled before halftime on Tuesday night with a bout of nausea and lightheadedness. He felt even worse after his individual performance in attack and defense.
“I didn’t do a lot of things right for my team in the first half, and it eats into me,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell did pretty much everything right in the second half.
He scored 45 points and lifted the Jazz to a 112-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals.
Mitchell put his will on the offensive after halftime, scoring 32 points to recover the Jazz from a double-digit deficit. Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic each scored 18 points. Mitchell and Clarkson combined for 12 3-pointers.
Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points to lead Los Angeles. Paul George provided 20 points and 11 rebounds. Luke Kennard added 18 points and made a team-high four 3-pointers.
Utah and Los Angeles will play Game 2 in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
“We had a pretty good rhythm in the first half,” Leonard said. “We came pretty flat in the third quarter, but they are a good defensive team. They played hard tonight and fought the whole game.”
The Jazz trailed a whopping 14 points before catching up and overtaking the Clippers in the fourth quarter. Utah finally took the lead with a 21-9 run by three-pointers from Bogdanovic. His second gave the Jazz a 103-93 lead with 5:22 left.
George hit a three-pointer to narrow the deficit to 112-109 in the last minute. But Rudy Gobert blocked a potentially game-connecting shot from Marcus Morris with a second left to keep the win.
“Personally I enjoy those moments,” said Gobert. “I embrace those moments.”
The Jazz became ice cold in the attack in the first fifteen minutes. Utah jumped out to a 10-2 lead after Mitchell made a couple of three-pointers. In the next 8 1/2 minutes, the Jazz missed 20 consecutive shots. 15 of the 20 shots were contested by the Clippers. Utah started 3-for-25 from the field before Clarkson buried a corner three to break the ice.
“We’ve had matches where we didn’t shoot well,” said jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Those are the games where you have to rely on your defense. What I’m happy about is that we didn’t stop shooting. We tried to look better.”
Los Angeles took advantage of the prolonged drought with a 22-2 run. Kennard buried three three-pointers to give the Clippers a 24-12 lead late in the quarter.
Hot shooting out cheered Los Angeles in the second quarter and kept Utah at bay. The Clippers went out of a 3-point range during the quarter 7 out of 12. Four of those baskets came during a period in which they scored on six consecutive possession, culminating in Rajon Rondo’s outside basket, to extend the lead to 51-37.
“We did a great job in the first half and then came out a little slow in the third quarter, didn’t make the right play and didn’t make shots as they got going offensively,” said Clippers coach Tyronne Lue.
Mitchell took over from the start of the third quarter. He scored four consecutive baskets to open the quarter and totaled 16 points in nine minutes. His effort helped the Jazz regain a 72-71 lead at the end of a 13-4 run. Mitchell scored back-to-back baskets to fuel the run and assisted Royce O’Neale’s lead layup.
“I’m just happy with how I was able to control the pace,” said Mitchell. “That’s something I’ve been trying to make progress with throughout my career.”
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (back cramps) didn’t play. … DeMarcus Cousins made his postseason debut, finishing with six points and three rebounds in four minutes. Cousins did not appear in any of the first round games against Dallas. … George went 4-for-17 from the field.
Jazz: Mike Conley (right hamstring strain) did not play. … Mitchell shot 11-of-17 from the field in the second half. … Gobert and O’Neale made 23 rebounds together. … Utah didn’t score a two-point basket in the first quarter and went 0-of-8 inside the 3-point line.
The Jazz hosted their first full audience at Vivint Arena since March 9, 2020. The arena seats 18,300. It created a raucous atmosphere to the point where the noise from the crowd drowned out the commentary from the TNT crew at certain points.
“We really felt it throughout the game. It wasn’t just at the end or in the key moments,” Gobert said. “Having that crowd behind us really gave us a big lift.”
Gobert’s end-game block underlined a dominant defensive effort for the Jazz throughout the second half. Utah only allowed a total of six baskets in the third quarter and held the Clippers on 5-for-19 shots from the perimeter in the final 20 minutes. The Jazz also beat Los Angeles 24-18 in the rebounds after halftime.
“They’re playing physically, so we definitely need to be more physical the next game, get to our spots, go to the basket, keep attacking the paint,” said Kennard. “They make us work.”
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