Suddenly Harden came alive, and after Mitchell went to the bench with his third foul at the 4:09 mark, Harden scored 13 of the Rockets' final 14 points of the first half, single-handedly cutting the deficit to 64-55.
That will be much easier said than done against a Rockets team that finished with the best record in the National Basketball Association and features an All-Star backcourt capable of taking over at a moment's notice, but the Jazz have not backed down in this series and are a potential roadblock to the Houston Rockets' first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2015. The Rockets rallied and led early in the fourth quarter before the fifth-seeded Jazz finished strong, but D'Antoni said his primary concern was Houston's slow start, particularly the poor defensive effort that allowed Utah to score 36 points in the first quarter. They were expected to lose their first-round series to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and won in six games.
"They made runs", Ingles said.
As Sports Illustrated shared, the rookie recognized what is at stake even after the Game 2 win on the road, saying, "We've been here before".
After trailing by 25 points at halftime of the 110-96 loss in the series opener, the Jazz jumped out to an early lead in this one and led by as many as 19 in the first half.
Houston regained the lead in the third quarter but couldn't keep pace with the Jazz in the fourth as its normally potent offense went cold. The Rockets are historically prolific when it comes to shooting 3-pointers, but in this game it was the Jazz that did significant damage from long distance.
Paul had 23 points, five rebounds, three assists and was a minus-3 in 35 minutes on Wednesday night. This was when the Jazz sailed back into the game thanks to the work of Mitchell. Joe Ingles had a career-high 27 points and seven threes.
"I've learned not to be content with him, to demand more and more from him", Jazz coach Quin Snyder said pregame, "because that's what he wants". Utah made 15 of its 32 3-point attempts, with Ingles going 7-of-9 from deep.More news: All 1500 cervical cancer cases will be reviewed
"We can correct our energy and we can correct the necessary focus that we need to have", D'Antoni said.
"Give them credit", Harden said. Rudy Gobert made one of two free-throw tries before Exum put it out of reach with a dunk. The Jazz went back up 86-85 by the end of the period. In Game 2, the Jazz made 15 of 32 threes (46.9 percent) while the Rockets made 10 of 37 threes (27 percent).
Mitchell broke John Stockton's franchise playoff record with 11 assists, more than making up for his 6-of-21 shooting while playing point guard because Ricky Rubio was out with a hamstring injury. From that point, it was about getting to halftime for the Jazz, holding off the inevitable Houston flurry, in whatever form it might take.
We know Mitchell is an explosive scorer, but developing as a playmaker will be a key factor in determining his ceiling.
"I thought Dante's dunk was better than mine", Mitchell said.
"Just being poised and staying under control was the biggest thing", Mitchell said.