Simmons’ rookie rival lifts Jazz in thrilling game two
IT WASN'T even clear until an hour before game two if Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell was going to play against Oklahoma City. The Thunder probably wish he hadn't.
Mitchell, who played with a bruised left foot, scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help the Jazz defeat Oklahoma City 102-95 and tie their Western Conference playoff series at one win apiece.
"I think if he was feeling something, he didn't show it and he played through it," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Derrick Favors had career playoff bests of 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz, and Ricky Rubio had 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the first playoff win of his seven-year career.
Mitchell did his damage attacking the basket. He missed all seven of his three-pointer attempts, but made 10 of 18 from inside the arc and eight of nine free throws.
Mitchell said centre Rudy Gobert told him to quit settling for jumpers.
"He let me know I went 0 of seven from three and I'm letting guys off the hook," Mitchell said.
"We've got to keep applying pressure and getting to the rim."
Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the Thunder.
Paul George, who scored 36 points in game one, finished with 18 on six-for-21 shooting.
Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points, but made just six of 18 shots.
"We just have to be aggressive," Westbrook said. "We miss and make shots. Shots are going to fall. Those guys (George and Anthony) are unbelievable scorers, and we have trusted those guys all season long, and we will continue to do that."
Gobert added 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Jazz, who out-rebounded Oklahoma City 56-46 to seize home-court advantage from the Thunder. Game three is on Saturday in Utah.
ROCKETS CRUSH WOLVES
Chris Paul had 27 points and Gerald Green came off the bench to score 21 as the Houston Rockets used a huge second quarter to cruise to a 102-82 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Houston fell behind early, but went on top for good with a 37-point second quarter, powered by four three-pointers from Green, and the Wolves didn't threaten again.
The top-seeded Rockets won the opener by three courtesy of a 44-point performance from James Harden on a night when most of the team struggled offensively.
Things were much different on Thursday (AEST) when Harden had just 12 points as one of four Rockets who finished in double figures.
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns had another disappointing game, scoring all of his five points in the first quarter, after being criticised for finishing with eight in the series opener.
The All-Star big man went to the bench with about seven minutes left in the third quarter and didn't return.
Jamal Crawford scored 16 points for the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Harden said on Tuesday that he knew Paul would have a big game two after the nine-time All-Star scored 14 points and tied a season high with six turnovers in the first game.
Early on, it was clear that Harden was right, as Paul had 15 points, three assists, two steals and a block by half-time.
Paul, who joined the Rockets in an off-season trade from the Clippers, finished with eight assists and three steals.
Houston was up by 22 points with about nine minutes left when Paul made two quick baskets to make it 91-65. The second came on a twirling off-balance layup over Nemanja Bjelica that earned him a standing ovation from the home crowd.
The Rockets were up by 15 at half-time and opened the second half with a 10-2 run to make it 65-42 with about nine minutes left in the third.
Harden made his first three-pointer to get things going after missing all six attempts in the first half, and PJ Tucker added another one after two free throws by Jimmy Butler.
The Timberwolves had scored seven straight points later in the third when Green, the hometown player who was signed off the street in December, hit his fifth three-pointer to leave the Rockets up 74-53 with about two and a half minutes left in the quarter.