There was only one NBA playoff game on Wednesday night and we saw the Jazz shock the Rockets in Houston, tying their series up at 1-1 after a surprising 116-108 win on the road. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!
Ingles was simply on fire and somewhat amazing, draining 10-of-13 shots and 7-of-9 3-pointers for 27 points, three rebounds and two assists to lead his team in scoring and to the unlikely road win. Not only were the 27 points a playoff career-high for the Aussie, but he had never scored that many points in any NBA game before. Timing is everything, right? The seven triples were also a career high and while he didn’t do a whole lot besides score and drain 3-pointers, that’s really all the defensive-minded Jazz needed from him. He’s averaging 18 points, 4.6 boards, 3.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks and 4.0 3-pointers over his last five playoff games, shooting a blistering 53 percent.
This was the first time that rookie Donovan Mitchell didn’t lead his team in scoring in the playoffs, but he did have an emphatic put-back dunk in the fourth quarter that you will see on television multiple times over the next few days. To put it bluntly, it was sick. The Jazz led by 19 points at one point in the first half, but saw the Rockets battle back and take the lead in the third quarter. Ingles and Mitchell didn’t let it stick, and Mitchell’s emphatic put-back jam seemed to push the Jazz over the top in the fourth quarter. “I just happened to be up there,” he said. “So I said: ‘Why come down with it?” Watching it live, I’m still not sure how he got back up that quickly, or how he got that high off of two feet. It was spectacular.
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The Jazz won the fourth quarter 30-23 and won by eight points, so yeah, Mitchell’s dunk was important, and sent the Jazz bench into a frenzy in the heat of the battle. Mitchell finished with 17 points, a franchise rookie-record (and career-high) 11 assists, five rebounds and two steals. He was involved in almost every play on both ends of the floor and quickly made most of us forget the fact that he hit just 6-of-21 shots on the night, including 2-of-8 from downtown. Mitchell is a true rookie who didn’t have the luxury of sitting on the bench and watching NBA basketball up close and personal for a season, and he hasn’t looked like a rookie since Summer League. And even that’s debatable, as he was a stud in the preseason, as well. Mitchell is a beast and is going to be one of the premier players in the NBA for a long time to come. He might even be worth a first-round fantasy pick next season. “He was breaking us down,” said Mike D’Antoni. “He was getting in there and was finding guys (mainly Ingles) in the corner. He’s a handful whether he’s finishing or not.”
The Jazz were down two points with eight minutes left in the game, but then went on a 16-2 run to put the Rockets away and make many of us rethink our postseason predictions, as I’m one of the guys who have the Rockets winning it all (I mean, the Warriors look really strong).
Rudy Gobert bounced back with 15 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks on 5-of-7 shooting, Jae Crowder stayed hot with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three 3-pointers, and Derrick Favors added 10 points, three rebounds, a steal and a block in just 21 minutes.
With Ricky Rubio (hamstring) out indefinitely, we knew a guard was going to step up for the Jazz. My hunch was that it would be Alec Burks, and I was right. He hit 7-of-11 shots for 17 points, four rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block in 22 minutes, and I’m thrilled that I picked him up on my postseason fantasy team when news of Rubio’s injury broke. Burks should be the sleeper of this series the rest of the way, despite not playing much down the stretch of the regular season, nor in the previous Jazz playoff games.
Rockets (and reunions)
I managed to hook up with several old friends on Monday and Wednesday night. Thaya’s not much of a basketball fan, that I know of, but I hadn’t talked to her in more than 20 years. I’m pretty sure she’s still a disgruntled Pacers fan, so not much has changed. And I not only got to see one of my favorite bands, Built To Spill, on Monday, but also played ‘real hoops 21’ with them in a local park before the show. I don’t want to gloat, but ya boy got the win (and I haven’t been able to walk for two days). And then there’s Houston native Steve Smith, who is my neighbor, friend and a fantasy sports junkie. He was one of the first people I met when we moved to Georgia 15 years ago. Upon meeting him and going through the standard “What do you do for a living?” questions in 2004, he was able to determine that I was 'Dr. A from Rotoworld,' without me even telling him. Trust me when I say, that doesn’t happen often.
Prior to tonight’s game, I heard Steve, a rabid Rockets and Astros fan, say to someone at his trivia table that the Western Conference was really down to just the Rockets and Warriors. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to write the Jazz off after one game, but he assured me that Houston has dominated them all year and in Game 1, so this series was all but over. Not so fast, professor. The Jazz are the best defensive team in the league and Ingles is a secret weapon, but I still think the Rockets will win this one.
James Harden was nice, as usual, with 32 points, six boards, 11 assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, hitting 9-of-22 shots and 12-of-13 free throws. He would have been a lot better, but hit just 2-of-10 3-pointers in the loss.
Chris Paul came through with 23 points, five boards, three assists, three steals and two 3-pointers on 8-of-19 shooting, but had a costly turnover late, and Clint Capela stayed hot with 21 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and two blocks on 10-of-15 shooting. Eric Gordon bounced back with 15 points, but hit just 5-of-16 shots and three 3-pointers after failing to convert a field goal in Game 1. He’s shooting just 33 percent over his last five playoff games. As I predicted last night (it wasn’t hard), P.J. Tucker hit just 2-of-9 shots for five points, and Trevor Ariza disappointed his fantasy owners with five points, four rebounds, one steal and one 3-pointer on 2-of-5 shooting. He’s a popular own in postseason fantasy leagues simply because he plays for Houston, and I’m one of his owners.
The Rockets got a wake-up call last night and have surrendered homecourt advantage to the defensive-minded Jazz. Maybe the Jazz are better without Rubio, who is a defensive sieve, but even if that’s not true, the Rockets will certainly go back to the drawing board with a focus on shutting down Ingles and trying to contain the rookie for Games 3 and 4. I picked the Rockets to win it all and am counting on them winning at least one game in Utah, but it’s hard not to root for the Jazz at this point - Unless you’re from Houston and breathe all things Rockets and Astros.
Game 3 takes place in Utah on Friday at 10:30 on ESPN, and Game 4 is set for Sunday at 8 p.m. on TNT, also in Utah. Let’s Go!
The Cavaliers visit the Raptors, again, and will hope to take a 2-0 lead and a death grip on the series with an unlikely win. I will be shocked if the Raptors don’t win Game 2 tonight at home. You can catch this one on ESPN at 6 p.m.
The Sixers visit Boston, down 0-1 for Game 2, and are starting to realize that Brad Stevens is the best coach in the NBA. Joel Embiid and the Sixers will look to tie up the series at 8:30 p.m. on TNT. Jaylen Brown is doubtful for Boston with a right hamstring injury, which works in Philly’s favor. Marcus Smart is the beneficiary if Brown is out and you can look for Terry Rozier to have another big game, either way. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Al Horford is somehow one of the better defenders of Embiid in the league.
Golden State is at New Orleans, looking to take a 3-0 lead in their series, as Stephen Curry will be in the starting lineup since forever ago. "Oh yeah, yeah, he'll start Game 3," Steve Kerr said of Curry on Wednesday. "You don't keep a guy like that on the bench for long... He'll be in the starting lineup." Curry was electric with 28 points, seven boards, two dimes, three steals and five 3-pointers off the bench in Game 2 and should be ready to roll full steam on Friday night. This one takes place on ESPN at 8 p.m. and Nick Young will likely come off the bench with Curry starting.
The Rockets will visit Utah at 10:30 on ESPN and the Rockets will not only be looking to steal a game back in Utah, but will be trying to get two wins to take back control of the series heading back to Houston for Game 5. Alec Burks is your super sleeper in this one.