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Jazz star Donovan Mitchell lights up Clippers in Game 1, Paul George struggles

Donovan Mitchell and Paul George in Jazz-Clippers Game 1

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives into LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) drawing the foul in the first quarter during game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George, after working out together, helped convince Donovan Mitchell to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft rather than return to Louisville for his junior year.

“When you have All-Stars telling you that you could be really good in this league,” Mitchell said, “I think that’s going to raise your level [of confidence].”

Now, Mitchell is the confident star and George could use the pep talk.

Mitchell scored 45 points to lead the Jazz to a 112-109 win over George’s Clippers in Game 1 Tuesday.

Heavily scrutinized for his postseason performances, George shot just 4-for-17. “I’m coming back with vengeance” remains a punchline.

For a while tonight, Utah was the joke. The Jazz missed 20 straight shots in the first quarter and trailed by 13 at halftime.

But Mitchell opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run that shifted momentum, and he stayed hot. Mitchell scored 32 of his 45 points in the second half – the highest-scoring individual second half of these playoffs.

Teams that won Game 1 of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 85% of the time. However, this isn’t necessarily a typical 1-4 series. The fourth-seeded Clippers opened the series as favorite over the top-seeded Jazz

L.A. has plenty of upside. George is talented (which is why his postseason letdowns get mocked so mercilessly). Kawhi Leonard (23 points) is often a dominant postseason player, though he wasn’t tonight.

Playing at altitude just two days after finishing a seven-game series against the Mavericks, the Clippers used a deep rotation. Eleven Clippers played – with even DeMarcus Cousins providing a spark off the bench. Luke Kennard scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Maybe the Clippers’ deep reserves won’t play as well in Game 2 Thursday. But L.A.'s stars should play better.

At least one of them.