Donovan Mitchell Drops 37, Lifts Jazz to 2-0 Lead vs. Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJune 11, 2021

Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum (33) defends as Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, left, goes to the basket during the first half of Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Utah Jazz held serve at home.

Utah extended its lead in its second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers to 2-0 with a 117-111 victory in Thursday's Game 2 at Vivint Arena. Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles led the way for the Jazz, who won again despite the absence of Mike Conley due to a hamstring injury.

Solid showings from Reggie Jackson, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George weren't enough for the Clippers, who will look to bounce back at home after dropping the first two on the road.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Spida and the Jazz take a 2-0 lead on the Clippers πŸ•· pic.twitter.com/iLIPkK23SU

Notable Player Stats

  • Donovan Mitchell, G, UTA: 37 PTS, 4 AST, 3 REB
  • Rudy Gobert, C, UTA: 13 PTS, 20 REB, 3 BLK, 2 STL
  • Jordan Clarkson, G, UTA: 24 PTS, 6-of-9 3PT
  • Joe Ingles, G, UTA: 19 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST
  • Reggie Jackson, G, LAC: 29 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
  • Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 21 PTS, 5 AST, 4 REB, 2 STL
  • Paul George, G, LAC: 27 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST

Donovan Mitchell's Start, Joe Ingles' Finish Lead Jazz to Win

Conley's absence for the second straight game once again put even more pressure on Mitchell to create in a ball-handling role all while serving as the go-to scorer.

His brilliance was about all the Jazz needed in Game 1, as the Clippers had no answer for anything he did on the way to 45 points. It was more of the same right out of the gates Thursday with an array of step-back triples and drives to the basket on the way to the 30-point mark by early in the third quarter.

It was easy to forget he is just 24 years old, especially after he put on a show in last year's duel with Jamal Murray in the first round. No moment has been too big for him in the early portion of his career, and he continues to add to his blossoming legend every time he lights the scoreboard up against an opponent featuring the likes of Leonard and George on the defensive side.

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It's the Donovan Mitchell show πŸ”₯<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/0ijjZrW2JM

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

DONOVAN MITCHELL IS GOING OFF<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/ecFZdCbzoh

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

This Mitchell cross on Pat Bev πŸ‘€<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/U5tsI3IDjE

utahjazz @utahjazz

BOG3Y!!!#TakeNote | @44bojan pic.twitter.com/tSinDHpAKt

utahjazz @utahjazz

Sixx called 🏦#TakeNote | @jordanclarksons pic.twitter.com/9PR7Bk7w1H

utahjazz @utahjazz

Jβ˜•οΈ3#TakeNote | @joeingles7 pic.twitter.com/NM5Hqw615I

It wasn't just Mitchell, though, as Clarkson caught fire from deep, Gobert controlled the glass, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Ingles provided important secondary scoring.

Despite all that, the Jazz sputtered on the offensive side after the Clippers switched to a zone. They lost a lead of more than 20 points, and Mitchell tried to force the issue a number of times without Conley there to facilitate and set everything up.

Utah needed someone to deliver in the point guard's absence, and Ingles answered the challenge. He changed the entire series in the course of two minutes.

He set up Gobert for an and-1 dunk, found Royce O'Neale for a monster three and then hit a long-range shot himself to push a one-point lead back to double digits. It was a critical stretch when Mitchell was struggling and rescued the Jazz from blowing a huge lead.

Clippers' Comeback Efforts Fall Short

The looming possibility of falling behind 2-0 in a playoff series often creates must-win pressure, but the Clippers lost the first two games of their opening-round series against the Dallas Mavericks at home and came back to win.

They are still in better position than that even after dropping Thursday's game with the series heading to Los Angeles, but overcoming such a deficit against the top seed is quite the daunting task. Leonard seemed to understand that and was aggressive from the start while attacking the basket and facilitating.

Even with his initial play, the visitors trailed by 13 at the half with George once again struggling with his shot, Ivica Zubac in early foul trouble, and the entire defense lost for extended stretches.

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KAWHI GOES COAST TO COAST 😱 <br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/wodL9JQDGs

LA Clippers @LAClippers

BIG TIME BUCKET. pic.twitter.com/WY266ozOOu

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Reggie feelin' it.<br><br>He's got 14 points so far in the third. pic.twitter.com/2KIB0auRRb

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Finishing through contact. pic.twitter.com/a85Dszs5jw

Just when it looked like the game was over when the Clippers fell behind by 21 points in the third quarter, Jackson and the zone defense arrived.

The switch to zone allowed L.A. to send multiple defenders at Mitchell without leaving too many shooters wide open. Jackson then provided another weapon outside of Leonard that the team was searching for by cutting into space and hitting from the outside, and George helped erase the deficit with much more efficient drives.

Fittingly, it was Jackson who gave the Clippers the lead in the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-pointers.

However, Los Angeles faded down the stretch in large part because Bogdanovic played stifling defense on Leonard. Throw in Ingles' ability to figure out the Clippers' defensive switch and the amount of energy it took just to close the gap, and the visitors ran out of steam down the stretch of a second straight loss.

What's Next?

The series shifts to Los Angeles for Saturday's Game 3.