The Nuggets didn’t let Donovan Mitchell beat them.
They just let Utah’s supporting cast beat them.
Then, they let Mitchell beat them.
Mitchell dizzied Denver’s defense with early passing and late scoring, leading the Jazz to a 124-105 Game 2 win Wednesday. The first-round series is now tied 1-1 with Game 3 on Friday.
After scoring 57 points – the third-highest scoring playoff game in NBA history – in Game 1, Mitchell attracted plenty of defensive attention today. But he patiently passed against an overloaded Nuggets defense, and Utah’s outside shooters took advantage of their clean looks.
Mitchell scored just six points in the first half, but his teammates made 9-of-11 3-pointers – four assisted by Mitchell.
“In my first two years, all I saw was the rim,” said Mitchell, who finished with eight assists. “So, I pride myself on being a better passer, playmaker.”
Of course, Mitchell is still an explosive scorer. When Denver adjusted, he pounced. Mitchell scored 21 of his 30 points in the third quarter.
Jordan Clarkson (26 points) was hot throughout, and Mitchell’s individual excellence put the Jazz way over the top. Utah made 20-of-44 3-pointers (45%) en route to a blowout win.
The Jazz led by 31 early in the fourth quarter before an extended garbage time (which included Denver pre-rookie Bol Bol)
What a bounce back by Utah from a potentially demoralizing defeat. No team had lost Game 1 in overtime then won Game 2 by so much since 1972.
Nikola Jokic (28 points, 11 rebounds, six assists) and Michael Porter Jr. (28 points on 6-of-9 3-point shooting) had their moments. But the Nuggets just couldn’t keep up with Utah.
Jazz forward Royce O’Neale played stout defense on Jamal Murray (14 points on 13 shots). O’Neale also hit his open shots (nine points on 3-of-4 3-pointers) and kept the ball moving (eight assists).
So did Joe Ingles (18 points and six assists) and Rudy Gobert (19 points and three assists).
Utah made the smart plays against an overwhelmed defense then hit their open shots. That’s a surefire recipe for victory.