SALT LAKE CITY – Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points and the Utah Jazz forced nine straight misses down the stretch to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 117-111 on Thursday night and take a 2-0 lead in their semifinal series of the Western Conference.
Mitchell secured the game with a running shot with 43 seconds to go, but then appeared to slightly injure his leg from a foul by Paul George with 10 seconds to go. He made one of two free throws after limping to the line.
The point guard is the Jazz’s first player with at least 35 points in consecutive playoff games since Karl Malone in 1988.
Jordan Clarkson scored 24, including six triples, while Joe Ingles had 19 points and Rudy Gobert contributed 13 points and 20 rebounds, his best mark in the playoffs.
Reggie Jackson led the Clippers with 29 points and George 27. Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points but had just two in the fourth quarter.
The series moves to Los Angeles on Saturday for Game 3.
Once the Clippers took their only lead at 101-99 after consecutive 3s from Jackson, the Jazz forced nine consecutive misses to drive a 14-2 run that was capped by an English triple to make it 113-103 with 3:07 to play.
In the second half, the Clippers mixed multiple coverage and cut through the passing lanes that usually give the Jazz clean 3-point looks and Jackson warmed up.
Mitchell scored 27 points in the first half, the most by a Utah player in the past 25 years, to propel the Jazz to an early lead and then a push late in the second quarter to propel Utah to a 66-lead. 53 at half time.
Mitchell was 11 of 16 in the first half and did the same in the second half of Game 1. He scored 59 points on 22 of 32 shots in those four quarters.
The demonstrative Mitchell has said he wants to conserve energy with the exceptional physical demands of the playoffs, but he couldn’t help but show excitement in some of his spectacular finishes.
Mike Conley missed his second game after injuring his hamstring at the end of the Utah-Memphis series finale, but the Jazz have now won six straight playoff games.
Jackson scored 16 points in the third quarter and the Jazz eventually began to miss shots against a Clippers hotspot. His 21-point lead was reduced to four when Marcus Morris drove down the lane and took a canted shot to make it 82-78. The Clippers came back without Leonard, who sat most of the period with four fouls.
For most of the game, the Clippers looked for Gobert every time they ventured down the lane and resorted to double bombs and odd angles on shots to the basket that weren’t blocked by the long-armed Frenchman.
Leonard, George and Patrick Beverley were among the Clippers who followed Mitchell in addition to throwing double teams to the Utah guard well beyond the 3-point line.
Rather than running small, the Clippers countered Gobert with DeMarcus Cousins and Ivica Zubac, who was hampered by foul problems in the first half.
Clippers: After posting the league’s best all-time free throw percentage in the regular season (83.9%), the Clippers scored 20 of 23. … Jackson’s 16 points in the third quarter were the most they ever had. he has scored in a single quarter in the postseason. … LA edged Utah in the paint 42-32.
Jazz: Coach Quin Snyder and owner Ryan Smith presented Gobert with his third Defensive Player of the Year award before kickoff. to ?? English was flagrantly fouled by an arm to the head of Beverley after the Clippers point guard fouled him early in the fourth quarter. to ?? ¦ The Jazz made 20 3s (on 39 attempts) to set a franchise record in the playoffs.