Donovan Mitchell did not feel like his usual self for an entire half.
The Utah Jazz guard struggled with a bout of nausea and light-headedness before halftime Tuesday night. He felt even worse after his individual performance on offense and defense.
“I didn’t do a lot of things right for my team in the first half, and it ate at me,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell did virtually 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 series.
Mitchell imposed his will offensively after halftime, scoring 32 points to rally the Jazz from a double-digit deficit. Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 18 points apiece. Mitchell and Clarkson combined for 12 3-pointers.
Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points to lead Los Angeles. Paul George chipped in 20 points and 11 rebounds. Luke Kennard added 18 points while making a team-high four 3-pointers.
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Utah and Los Angeles will play Game 2 on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
“We had a pretty good rhythm in the first half,” Leonard said. “We came in the third quarter pretty flat, but they are good defensive team. They played hard tonight, and they fought the whole game.”
The Jazz trailed by as many as 14 points before rallying and overtaking the Clippers in the fourth quarter. Utah took the lead for good on a 21-9 run bookended by 3-pointers from Bogdanovic. His second one gave the Jazz a 103-93 lead with 5:22 remaining.
George hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 112-109 in the final minute. But Rudy Gobert blocked a potential game-tying shot from Marcus Morris with a second left to preserve the victory.
“Personally, I enjoy those moments,” Gobert said. “I embrace those moments.”
The Jazz went ice cold on offense during the first quarter. Utah jumped out to a 10-2 lead after Mitchell made a pair of 3-pointers. Over 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-of-25 from the field before Clarkson buried a corner three to break the ice.
“We’ve had games where we’ve not shot it well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Those are the games where you have to rely on your defense. The thing I’m pleased with is we didn’t stop shooting. We tried to get better looks.”
Los Angeles capitalized on the lengthy drought with a 22-2 run. Kennard buried three 3-pointers to put the Clippers in front 24-12 late in the quarter.
Hot outside shooting buoyed Los Angeles in the second quarter and kept Utah at a distance. The Clippers went 7 of 12 from 3-point range during the quarter. Four of those baskets came during a stretch in which they scored on six straight possessions, culminating in Rajon Rondo’s outside basket, to extend their lead to 51-37.
“We did a great job in the first half and then came out in third quarter a little sluggish, not making the right play and not making any shots while they kind of got going offensively,” Clippers coach Tyronne Lue said.
Mitchell took over from the start of the third quarter. He scored four straight 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 the go-ahead layup from Royce O’Neale.
“I’m just happy with how I was able to control the pace,” Mitchell said. “That’s something I’ve tried to make strides with throughout my career.”
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (back spasms) did not play. … DeMarcus Cousins made his postseason debut and finished 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-of-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 combined for 23 rebounds. … Utah did not score a two-point basket during the first quarter, going 0-of-8 inside the 3-point line.
The Jazz hosted their first full capacity crowd at Vivint Arena since March 9, 2020. The arena holds 18,300. It created a raucous atmosphere to the point where the crowd noise drowned out commentary from the TNT crew calling the game at certain points.
“We really felt it throughout the whole 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-of-game block underscored a dominant defensive effort for the Jazz throughout the second half. Utah allowed just six total baskets in the third quarter and held the Clippers to 5-of-19 shooting from the perimeter over the final 20 minutes. The Jazz also edged Los Angeles 24-18 in rebounds after halftime.
“They play physical, so we definitely have to be more physical next game, get to our spots, get to the basket, keep attacking the paint,” Kennard said. “They’re making us work.”