Donovan Mitchell Outduels Russell Westbrook as Jazz Even Series with Thunder

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 18:  Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz battles his way around Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of Game 2 of the Western Conference playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on April 18, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz stole home-court advantage from the Oklahoma City Thunder after pulling out a 102-95 victory in Game 2 of their first-round series Wednesday.  

After losing 116-108 in Game 1, Utah came out eager to even the series. A 9-0 run in the opening minutes created separation early on, but that lead would not last long. Oklahoma City responded with a 9-0 run of its own, foreshadowing how back-and-forth this contest would be all night.

As the teams settled into the opening period, big men on both sides quickly racked up fouls. Thunder center Steven Adams (two) and the Jazz's Rudy Gobert (two) and Jae Crowder (three) all found themselves in early foul trouble.

Adams also did not appear to be 100 percent healthy, as ESPN.com's Royce Young noted:

After Paul George went off for 36 points in Game 1 on Sunday, none of the Thunder's Big Three—George, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony—pulled off a similar performance Wednesday.

That was the break the Jazz needed.

Behind a strong showing from Derrick Favors (20 points and 16 rebounds), Utah appeared to be in control for the better part of three quarters. The Jazz took a seven-point lead into halftime and extended their advantage to nine midway through the third period.

The Thunder proceeded to go on a 19-0 run over a six-minute span as the third quarter wound down, turning a nine-point hole into a 10-point lead. But rather than go away quietly, the Jazz responded with an 18-3 run to recapture the lead.

As has been the case for Utah all season, Donovan Mitchell led the way:

The Rookie of the Year candidate scored 12 of the 18 during that run and 20 in the second half. He finished with a game-high 28 points.

According to Ben Dowsett of The Athletic, the 21-year-old Mitchell joined some exclusive company with his scoring barrage:

Favors and Mitchell weren't the only ones making plays for Utah, as Ricky Rubio finished with 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He highlighted his near-triple-double with a go-ahead three-pointer with four minutes to play.

With Adams in foul trouble all night, Gobert (13 points and 15 rebounds) managed to have his way down low throughout the game. The Thunder center, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds, ultimately fouled out with 2:48 remaining and his team down by two.

Fouls wound up being a major factor in this contest. Utah (23-of-33) got to the line nearly twice as much as Oklahoma City (12-of-18), including a whopping 16 times in the fourth.

Although five players reached double figures for Oklahoma City, the Thunder had no answer for Utah's rookie phenom out of Louisville. OKC's Big Three combined for 54 points on 19-of-58 shooting. Unfortunately for Billy Donovan and Co., the stars went cold with the game on the line, as Young noted:

OKC needed one of its stars to catch fire at some point, but that didn't happen.

On a night when shots weren't falling for the home team, the Jazz got a team effort, as three players topped 20 points and two grabbed 15 or more boards. In a game of runs, Utah was able to make more plays. 

The series will now shift to Salt Lake City for the next two games with the series tied at one game apiece. Game 3 will tip off Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET.

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