Mitchell, Utah not ready to roll over vs. Rockets
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The Houston Rockets are in position to close out the first-round series with the Utah Jazz because they prevailed on a night in which star guard James Harden made just 15 percent of his field-goal attempts.
A return to form certainly wouldn't help the Jazz stay alive when the two Western Conference teams meet Monday night in Salt Lake City.
Fourth-seeded Houston has a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series despite Utah bottling up Harden for three-plus quarters in Game 3. Harden scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets posted a 104-101 victory.
Harden was 0-of-15 shooting through three quarters and finally made his first basket on a dunk with 7:34 remaining. He finished 3 of 20 from the field but also contributed 10 assists as Houston set itself up for a chance at a four-game sweep.
"We found a way to win," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said in the postgame press conference. "We just didn't play well. We made silly turnovers. Obviously, James was 3 for 20 and we won with that.
"Normally, we would say, 'You can't win that way.' But because of defense, rebounding, big shots -- James was 3 of 20, but two were real big ones."
Houston won two home games by an average of 26 points before pulling out the close win at Utah despite shooting just 38.4 percent from the field.
The Jazz were deeply deflated after the game. Factor in that no team in NBA history has recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series and Utah is facing staggering odds.
But struggling star guard Donovan Mitchell promises he and his teammates will put forth an extreme effort in Game 4.
"I don't think anybody is going to just lay over Monday," Mitchell said during a press conference. "I don't think that is going to be the case. I don't think that is what our organization is based on. ... It is an uphill battle, but we are not going to lay over and give them a game."
Mitchell scored 34 points in Game 3, but it was an uneven performance.
He missed 16 of 20 shots over the final three quarters to finish 9 of 27 overall. Worse, he had a wide-open 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 8.7 seconds left that bounced off the rim, and the Rockets closed it out.
"It was not about that shot. We had so many chances to win that game," veteran swingman Kyle Korver said afterward. "(Mitchell) heard that he hadn't played as well as he wanted to the last couple of games. He put the whole thing on his back. For a young guy, (22) years old, it's really special.
"He's on a great path in the NBA and at the end of the day, this is going to be part of his story and part of his journey."
Mitchell is shooting just 32.8 percent from the field in the series while averaging 21.3 points. He scored just 30 total points in the first two games.
Harden isn't faring much better at 34.3 percent. But he is averaging 27.6 points and 8.3 rebounds and received plenty of help from his teammates in the Game 3 victory.
"I think everybody is comfortable in what they need to do in order for us to win," Harden said in a postgame press conference. "We have to go out there every night and play to the best of our abilities in our roles. If we do that, we have a chance to win every single night we play -- whether we make shots or miss shots."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 22, 2019