Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder broke out in the 1st quarter to finally give Donovan Mitchell some help in the Rockets vs. Jazz playoff (...)
On Tuesday morning, the headlines read that Donovan Mitchell had bounced back in the Jazz’s opening round series against the Rockets, shaking off a missed game-tying shot at the end of Game 3 to come back and lead Utah to a 107-91 win and avoid the series sweep.
That’s all true. Mitchell was electrifying on Monday night, scoring 31 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing 4 assists. Nineteen of his points came in the fourth quarter, a dominant closing display that put the game out of reach.
But those headlines also that Mitchell was somehow at fault for any of the Jazz’s losses earlier in the series. Yes, he missed a game-tying shot in the fourth quarter of Game 3, but he also had 34 points in that game, and Utah wouldn’t have even had a game-tying shot attempt if it hadn’t been for him.
What changed in Game 4 wasn’t Mitchell. What changed in Game 4 was his teammates actually helped him with scoring the basketball.
It happened in the first quarter. With the Rockets keying in on Mitchell, his Jazz teammates Jae Crowder and Ricky Rubio woke up and got aggressive. Crowder started the game with 12 of the team’s opening 14 points, hitting two 3-pointers and a flurry of driving finishes.
The Rockets looked a bit surprised by the whole thing, though they quickly adjusted … just in time for Rubio to take the baton, scoring a quick 8 points. Just like that, the Jazz were up 30-16. Mitchell, at that point, had scored 2 points off a tipped-in rebound.
The Jazz didn’t relinquish the lead until the third quarter, then kept it tight until Mitchell could take the game over in the fourth. And just like that, a sweep was avoided.
Crowder finished with 23 points. Rubio got 18. The Jazz’s bench chipped in as well, with Derrick Favors notching 12 points off the pine and giving the Jazz a needed lift against Houston’s second unit.
Earlier in this series, the veteran Jazz shooter Kyle Korver gave a beautiful post-game speech about what kind of leader Mitchell has been for this team. It was heartfelt and sweet, and showed just how much the Jazz admire their star, who is still just 22 years old.
On Monday night, Mitchell’s Jazz teammates went beyond words (sweet as those words were) and actually did something for him on the court. All series long the team has desperately waited for someone – Crowder or Rubio, Joe Ingles or Rody Gobert – to ease the scoring burden on Mitchell. Crowder and Rubio gave him a quarter, and he got a win out of it.
If the Jazz are going to keep this series going, they might need to give him more than that.