NBA Playoffs Roundup
SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell scored 45 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 112-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series on Tuesday night.
Mitchell did most of his work in the second half, 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.
“I didn’t do a lot of things right for my team in the first half and it ate at me,” Mitchell said.
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.
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.
SIXERS 118, HAWKS 102 — At Philadelphia, Joel Embiid bounded on the court and pointed at Shake Milton following an electrifying stretch that might have saved Philadelphia’s season and yelled, “I told you be ready!”
Sure enough, Embiid — who had a sideline confrontation last season with Milton — rallied the forgotten guard with a pregame pep talk.
“For some reason,” Embiid said, “I felt like he was going to be needed.”
Milton buried a 32-footer and scored 14 points, and Embiid had a playoff-best 40 points and 13 rebounds to lead the 76ers past Atlanta in Game 2 and even the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Game 3 is Friday in Atlanta.
“It really shows what the playoffs is about,” 76ers forward Tobias Harris said. “You never know who’s going to be able to step up.”
Milton took his turn in Game 2.
Milton shined at times as a sixth man this season before he fell out of favor and slogged through an awful first round against Washington (3.4 points per game).
With the reserves failing Philly for the second straight game against the Hawks — the Sixers had zero bench points at the half — coach Doc Rivers gave Milton a shot in the third.
The Sixers squandered a 21-point lead and Trae Young hit a pair of free throws in the third for Atlanta’s first lead, 80-79.
Then came Shake.
Milton did not play in the first half but promptly buried a quick 3 to make it 82-80 for Philadelphia’s first bench points in 34 minutes. He buried a long-distance 3 at the horn that sent the Sixers into the fourth quarter with a 91-84 lead and sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. He kept it going with a jumper early in the fourth that made it 95-84.
Rivers kept the faith and Shake rattled the Hawks and helped the Sixers roll to a 14-0 run that blew the game open and they avoided a straight second disaster at home.
“He prepared himself and he believed he would get another shot and he got it,” Rivers said.
Milton’s 14 minutes were the most valuable of Game 2.
Embiid proved his value all season.
Playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee, Embiid carried the Sixers early not long after he found out he was runner-up in NBA MVP voting. Embiid, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry steadied the top-seeded Sixers a game after they fell behind by 26 and were stunned in a Game 1 defeat.
“Whenever we got close we just turned the ball over or gave up a basket,” coach Nate McMillan said. “We didn’t really do a good job of controlling or establishing our defense all night long.”
The Sixers led by 18 early and Sixers fans — who only recently were allowed to pack the place — unleashed seemingly a season’s worth of pandemonium from the opening tip.