Houston • Donovan Mitchell wants to wear his traditional Utah Jazz rookie pink backpack for at least another few days.
And that only will happen if the Jazz can find a way to win Game 5 over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night at the Toyota Center.
If it sounds like a tall task, well, it is. The Rockets soundly defeated the Jazz in Games 3 and 4 at Vivint Smart Home Arena, beating them in almost every major area of the game.
The Jazz know they have to adjust to the physical style of defense the Rockets have used in the past two weeks to reverse the trend and keep their season alive. And they simply have to execute at a better clip.
“I’ve watched film a couple of times to remind myself of what I shouldn’t be doing,” Mitchell said. “But to also understand how they’re playing and where the shots and the passes are going to come from. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”
The Jazz are down 3-1 and facing elimination for the first time in the postseason. They have allowed James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela to dominate the series.
Harden’s playmaking and scoring have flummoxed the Jazz, along with Paul’s midrange shooting. Capela has been a defensive force, blocking and changing shots defensively. The Jazz know they have to find a way to counter what the three have been doing if they want to keep their season alive. They have to figure some things out offensively as well.
Joe Ingles scored 27 points in Game 2 but has been defended well in Games 3 and 4. Mitchell has scored well, but he took 24 shots to score 25 points in Game 4, and his playmaking hasn’t returned to Game 2 level, when he had 11 assists. Rudy Gobert hasn’t made an impact on the series. He had a -27 net rating in Game 4.
Without Dante Exum and Ricky Rubio — both are out due to hamstring strains — the Jazz’s backcourt depth isn’t what it has been. So there will need to be contributions from everyone, even some unlikely candidates, if the Jazz are to keep playing.
“There’s always an urgency when your season can end,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We have to play well if we want to earn the opportunity to keep playing.”