In the aftermath of Utah’s thrilling Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, jazz coach Quin Snyder revealed a little secret to everyone.
Donovan Mitchell was playing despite the illness.
It also looked like the first half, when Mitchell and the Jazz fell behind by double digits after missing 20 straight shots at some point in the first quarter.
“I didn’t do a lot for my team in the first half, and it pissed me off,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell’s second-half performance, however, was more like Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” in the 1998 NBA Finals when “His Airness” lit up the Jazz in Salt Lake City despite the inclement weather.
Mitchell scored 32 of his 45 points in the second half, helping Utah turn a 13-point halftime deficit into a thrilling 112-109 series opener.
Thanks to the All-Star’s two-time offensive explosion – and their defense against Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – Utah is heading into Game 2 on Thursday night with a chance to serve at home at Salt. Lake City.
“I really felt [sick] a little bit, but sometimes you have to dig a deeper place, ”Mitchell said. “I was getting my ass kicked in the first half. I was lazy. I came to half-time knowing I had to change that. “
Mitchell ended up equalizing Karl Malone, who was in attendance, for the most 40-point game in Jazz playoff history at four.
Mitchell scored the first 10 points of the second half for the Jazz, and continued to hit the three-point wrench after setting up the wrench after a key free throw to boost a Utah team that was playing without the All-Star point guard Mike Conley right hamstring).
Even after a slow start, Mitchell made 16 of 30 shots with six three-pointers – hitting 11 of 17 shots in the second half – and added five assists, three rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot.
“It’s amazing how mature he has become this season. He really read the game,” Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic said. “We were missing some great shots and then in the third quarter he got the upper hand.”
Mitchell was tough on himself in the first half and for returning the ball with 49 seconds left. This error played a role in the Clippers positioning themselves to impose overtime, despite falling 10 points earlier in the fourth quarter and eight with just over a minute left in regulation. .
He knows this is just one step among many.
“It was good,” Mitchell said. “But I’m at a point where it doesn’t matter anymore. We’re in Game 2. I have to do it three more times. We have to win three more times.”
Leonard, who finished with 23 points but struggled on the pitch with George, credited the Jazz’s defense but also pointed out that the Clippers still have room for improvement after a slow second half.
“We had a pretty good pace in the first half,” said Leonard. “We got into the third quarter quite flat, but it’s a good defensive team. They played hard tonight, they fought the whole game and they took the win.”
The Jazz were coming off five days off, while the Clippers were forced into a seven-game streak that ended two days earlier.
“It’s not an excuse,” said George. “We were lethargic.”