It was near the end of the 3rd quarter. Jae Crowder committed a loose ball foul, the Jazz were down 8 after giving up a 19-0 run, and I was ready to give up on them. ESPN’s win probability calculator gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a 90.5% chance of taking a 2-0 lead back to Salt Lake City.
Then something amazing happened.
Donovan Mitchell happened.
After a Carmelo Anthony miss, Donovan took Jerami Grant to the hole on the other side, drawing a foul and getting three points the old-fashioned way.
Then he drove the length of the floor following a Felton brick and threw down a dunk.
In the fourth, the two teams traded blows like prizefighters. Steven Adams went out with foul trouble, Oklahoma City’s Big Three each laid a big egg, and Donovan Mitchell—the rookie—led the Jazz to victory over the Thunder.
Let’s back up, though. Stuff happened in the 23 minutes of basketball prior to that. The Jazz actually led—somehow—during most of the first 2.5 periods. Derrick Favors had a monster game, and if he wasn’t going to get paid before tonight, (he was) he’s gonna make bank now. He put up 20 points, 16 boards, and three assists. Oh, and he hit two three-point shots.
And how about Rudy Gobert? He looked a bit flustered at times in the beginning, but he bogarted Steven Adams into foul trouble, and that hurt OKC. He finished with an impressive line of 13/15/3, with three blocks and two steals. Rudy played a far more physical game tonight than on Sunday, and was a key part of the team’s win.
Ricky Rubio, for his part, did yeoman’s work at the point, playing good defense on Russell Westbrook (19/13/9) and burying FIVE three-pointers. The man has been absolutely balling for a few months now, and playoff Ricky is a delight to watch.
Here’s the surprise of the night: Jonas Jerebko.
Extended time with Jerebko on the court. This is dicey.— “Playoff SLC D” (@slcdunk) April 19, 2018
JEREBKO DUNK? JEREBKO WE TAKE BACK EVERYTHING.— “Playoff SLC D” (@slcdunk) April 19, 2018
We’ll eat those words. He was a scapegoat after Sunday’s game, but he came through tonight, posting a line of 10 points and 5 boards, finishing at +19. If he can keep this up, the Jazz are in even better shape than we thought they were.
The two Jazzmen who need to improve the most were Jae Crowder (1/1/2, 0-3 shooting, -14) and Joe Ingles (3/2/2, 1-6 shooting). Jae was a complete mess. Joe was only a mess on offense. He seemed afraid of taking shots, reminiscent of his attitude at the beginning of the season. On defense, though, he defended Paul George well, and played his usual role in annoying the opposing team in general.
- Donovan Mitchell is the first rookie ever to score 55 points in the first two games of playoff basketball.
- Oklahoma’s Big Three combined for 54 points, 28 rebounds, and 14 assists (13 were from Russ). In the fourth quarter they combined for 2 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and a block with zero made field goals.
- Neither team’s bench had a particularly good performance. Oklahoma City’s bench had 21 points, and the Jazz second unit put up 16, with 10 coming from Jonas Jerebko. If the Jazz want to win this series, they need a better showing from their bench.
Overall, that was an incredible game. The Jazz fought, got knocked down, got up, and fought again until they won. It was a microcosm of the whole season, really. The 43.2 second mark in the third quarter was our 19-28 mark. The fourth quarter was our 28-5 finish. What a game. What a team. Can’t wait for Saturday.