Houston • There are myriad reasons why the Jazz pulled out the victory in Game 4 on Monday night — a strong defensive effort that forced the Rockets into 0-for-13 shooting on fourth-quarter 3-pointers; big advantages in points in the paint (52-22), rebounds (52-35), bench scoring (28-5), second-chance points (17-3) …
All valid components.
Perhaps the most obvious answer, though, is that star guard Donovan Mitchell, after entering the fourth quarter with only 12 points, wound up outscoring the Rockets in the fourth quarter all by himself, 19-12.
Mitchell said something in him snapped when he shanked a gimme bucket, and he became all the more determined to attack.
“I got pretty upset at myself after I kind of fell off a layup that I should have had on James [Harden] — trying to anticipate a foul. Have to be stronger; it’s the playoffs,” Mitchell said. “That is what really got me going, in my mind. Continue to attack, find the right man, make the right play — whether it’s a shot or a pass, whatever it may be.”
He came into the final period with 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 0 for 2 from deep, to go along with three rebounds and three assists.
In the fourth alone, he shot 6 for 12, made 3 of 5 beyond the arc, went 4 for 4 at the line, and added four rebounds, another assist, and a steal.
At long last, Mitchell was making it look easy. And once he did, the Rockets conceded there wasn’t much they could do to stop him.
“ [We] left him one time on a penetration, and he hits a 3. We didn’t square up on another penetration, it’s a layup,” said Houston coach Mike D’Antoni. “… I mean, he’s good. He’s gonna get rolling.”
Eric Gordon, who has earned plaudits throughout the series for making life difficult for Mitchell, said he simply couldn’t do enough of that in the fourth quarter this time.
“He got going in the second half,” Gordon said. “You know a good player [like him] is going to score some points, but you have to make it hard on him.”
Then again, Jazz coach Quin Snyder suggested, there really wasn’t much the Rockets’ defense could have done differently at that point.
Once Mitchell began to attack consistently — and not merely by charging headlong into the paint, but by surveying the scene and making good, quick decisions — he was pretty much unstoppable.
“He continued to attack the rim. And then there were a couple isolation situations where I thought he made nice reads. … You don’t get a chance to read if you don’t attack,” Snyder said. “I thought by him … making a shot, getting to the rim, and getting fouled — those things are a pretty good formula. The guy we are playing against on the other team has mastered that. Donovan really mixed it up tonight in that regard.”