Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell wasn’t feeling well at the halftime of Tuesday’s Game 1 against the visiting LA Clippers. He was a little under the weather, feeling nauseous and a little light-headed. And he really got sick of his performance in the first half.
“Yeah, I definitely felt it a little bit, but sometimes you just have to dig deep into another place,” Mitchell said after the Jazz rallied from a 13-point deficit for a 112-109 victory at Vivint Arena in this Western Conference second round series. “I was individually kicked in the ass at both ends of the floor in the first half. I didn’t make the right readings. Luke [Kennard] took a lot of shots at me, Reggie [Jackson] hit me a couple of shots and there were situations where I was lazy and that fatigue just kind of got to me.
“So I got into halftime and just said, ‘Look, I just have to find a way.'”
Mitchell delivered on that promise with a spectacular second half, scoring 32 of his game-high 45 points. He scored on Utah’s first four possession of the third quarter—clamping a pair of three-pointers back with a floater and a driving layup—and remained a dominant force attacking the dribble for the rest of the game.
“We knew Donovan would come out aggressively in the second half, and he did,” said Jazz Center Rudy Gobert, who had 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, including a winning shot of Marcus Morris Sr.‘s corner 3 attempt with seconds remaining. “Obviously he gave us a great lift. And he did a great job of not settling for the jump shots, but attacking and putting pressure on them — finishing on the edge, making mistakes or kicking out for the archers.
“If we play like that, I think we’ll be very, very hard to guard.”
Taking over the game for the highest-ranking Jazz, 24-year-old Mitchell continued to build his reputation as one of the NBA’s premier playoff performers. Mitchell ranks sixth in NBA history in the playoffs with an average (25 games minimum) of 28.1 points per game, tying Karl Malone’s franchise record with his fourth playoff feat of 40 points. .
It was the third time Mitchell has scored at least 45 points in the playoffs and he has played in just 28 postseason games. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain had more such appearances in their first 30 games after the season.
It was also the third time Mitchell has scored 30 or more points in a half in a playoff game, matching Allen Iverson for most in the NBA in the past 25 years.
In this case, Mitchell was warmed up after a poor first half when he was 5-of-14 from the floor and the Jazz shot just 32.1%, missing 20 consecutive shots in one piece.
Mitchell finished 16-of-30 from the floor, including 6-of-15 from a 3-point range.
“He’s not afraid to fail,” said jazz coach Quin Snyder. “He’ll take the next shot. We want him to look open. If he misses a few, you know, they’re good shots. Keep taking them and keep attacking. That’s who he is.”
Mitchell carried an even heavier offensive load than usual, handling many of the point guard responsibilities with fellow All-Star Mike Conley sidelined for the series opener due to a mild right hamstring injury. Mitchell said he felt how the Clippers wanted to defend him in the first half, which allowed him to be more aggressive in the second half.
“I didn’t do a lot of things right for my team in the first half, and it really eats into me,” said Mitchell, who also had five assists in the win. “It still does. I put my team in a certain position and I feel like it was up to me to come out and set the tone on both sides of the floor.”