Houston • Donovan Mitchell, who’s endeared himself to fans around Utah with his public appearances and random acts of kindness, showed once again Wednesday he has his finger on the pulse of the community.
Against the Rockets, he wore sneakers adorned with the name “Lauren McCluskey” — the University of Utah student-athlete who was fatally shot by an ex-boyfriend this week.
Mitchell spoke passionately about issues related to domestic violence and violence against women after the game.
“This is tough. I have a little sister, a single mother. For that to happen, for a mother to lose her child, her daughter — especially in that way…” he said. “Women nowadays have it so tough. A lot of times, men are the aggressor and the women are defenseless. It’s so sad to see something like that happen.
“The guy was harassing her for two straight weeks, and eventually it caught up to her. I think we need to offer women more help in those types of situations. The track record was there, from the beginning until the end,” Mitchell added. “For women to be scared to say something is not something we should be promoting — in this country or in this world. Obviously, having a little sister, this one really hits with me, because if anything happened to her, I’d be devastated. So, my condolences to the family. I don’t know them, I don’t know her personally, but it’s so sad to see something like that happen.”
No one denies that Chris Paul trading haymakers with the Lakers’ Rajon Rondo and drawing a two-game suspension that kept him out of Wednesday’s game was fortuitous for the Jazz.
“Well obviously, without Chris playing — he’s a leader and one of the best players in the league, so that impacts,” Utah’s Quin Snyder said.
Turns out, though, his absence had more of an impact than either coach anticipated.
Houston’s Mike D’Antoni said before the game that between league MVP James Harden and Eric Gordon, he figured his team still had more than enough on the offensive end. He was more worried about replacing Paul on the other end of the court.
“With Eric and James, we’ll get enough points. I’m not worried about the points. Whether we’re good offensively or not, we’re gonna score some points,” D’Antoni said. “But we gotta stop people.”
Snyder seemed to agree.
“You still have [Harden], the MVP, and we know him — the league knows him, it’s not unique to us,” he said. “… They’re one of the top teams in the league, and we’re gonna have our work cut out for us no matter who’s out there.”
However, while Harden poured in 14 points and five assists in the first half, he also had six turnovers.
Gordon had just 6 points on 3-for-12 shooting in the half. And the Rockets as a whole were not quite up to their usual offensive juggernaut standards.
Houston had just 44 points at the break, shooting 17 for 46 from the field (37 percent), 6 of 21 for deep (28.6 percent) and a mere 4 for 9 on free throws.
Switching things up
Watching Houston’s switching defense is an intriguing experience.
The Jazz set a screen, and rather than have the ball handler’s defender try to fight over or around it, the players involved simply switch who they’re guarding.
Every. Single. Time.
It makes for some weird visuals. Michael Carter-Williams guarding Rudy Gobert. Eric Gordon on Derrick Favors. Isaiah Hartenstein on Ricky Rubio.
More importantly, from Houston’s perspective, is that it forces opposing offenses into more iso actions than perhaps they’d like.
Snyder mentioned that it’s a challenge to exploit, but also a good learning opportunity.
“They’re a unique team the way they guard, the way they switch — both on and off the ball,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for our guys to really think. I think we have to be alert and think and keep thinking — usually ‘keep thinking’ means keep moving and keep the ball moving. There’s gonna be limits to that, there’s times when guys have to make plays individually.”