Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points and Aussie Joe Ingles put up 19 as the Utah Jazz forced nine straight misses down the stretch to outlast the Los Angeles Clippers 117-111 and take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
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.
The guard is the first Jazz player with at least 35 points in back-to-back playoff games since Karl Malone in 1988.
Ingles was also in the thick of the action all game, whether it was nailing four 3-pointers and 7-10 from the field, or ruthlessly mocking Clippers star George for flopping, the Adelaide product had Salt Lake City pumping.
When the Clippers left Ingles with a rare free shot from beyond the arc and he took full advantage, NBA commentator Doris Burke gave a warning to his opponents.
“There’s the snooze button. Somebody might wanna check Mr Ingles. I know it’s been a little bit of a struggle in the playoffs but that dude was on fire,” she said.
“And he is one of the most underrated trash talkers in the league.”
In addition to finding some shooting form, Ingles also had four rebounds, four assists and one steal and was +21 when on court.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder heaped praise on Ingles.
“I thought that Joe played with tremendous poise and confidence,” Snyder said of the Aussie.
A total of 20 3-pointers fell for the Jazz, tying their franchise record for a playoff game.
Jordan Clarkson scored 24, including six 3-pointers, and Rudy Gobert contributed 13 points and a career playoff-high 20 rebounds.
Reggie Jackson led the Clippers with 29 points and George had 27. Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points but managed just two in the fourth quarter.
Once the Clippers took their only lead at 101-99 after consecutive 3-pointers by Jackson, the Jazz forced nine consecutive misses to power a 14-2 run that was capped by Ingles’ 3-pointer to make it 113-103 with 3:07 to play.
“That’s the beauty of our team, and it has been all year,” Ingles said of the 14-2 run post-game.
“Just figuring out matchups, who we want to attack, where we want to go. We’ve got a lot of guys who can handle the ball and make shots.
“Finding the matchups we want and then attacking.”
In the second half, the Clippers mixed multiple coverages and cut off the passing lanes that usually garner the Jazz clean 3-point looks and Jackson got hot.
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.
The demonstrative Mitchell has said he wants to conserve energy with the exceptional physical demands of the playoffs, but he couldn’t help showing emotion one some of his spectacular finishes.
Mike Conley missed his second game after injuring his hamstring late in the Utah-Memphis series finale but the Jazz have now won six straight playoff games.
Jackson scored 16 points in the third quarter and the Jazz finally started missing shots against an active Clippers zone. Their 21-point lead shrunk to four when Marcus Morris drove the lane and flipped in a leaning shot to make it 82-78. The Clippers made their comeback without Leonard, who sat most of the period with four fouls.
For most of the game, the Clippers looked for Gobert whenever they ventured into the lane and resorted to double-pumps and odd angles on the shots at the basket that weren’t blocked by the long-armed Frenchman.
Leonard, George and Patrick Beverley were among the Clippers that shadowed Mitchell in addition to throwing double-teams at the Utah guard well beyond the 3-point line.
Instead of going small, the Clippers countered Gobert with DeMarcus Cousins and Ivica Zubac, who was hampered with foul trouble in the first half.
The series shifts to Los Angeles on Saturday for Game 3.
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