The Utah Jazz weren’t even expected to be a playoff team entering the 2017-18 season after losing star forward Gordon Hayward in free agency, and went 48-34, tied for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. They were expected to lose their first-round series to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and won in six games. And they entered their second-round series against the Houston Rockets as huge underdogs, and now have the series tied through two games.
The Jazz went into Houston and shocked the top-seeded Rockets with a 110-96 victory on Wednesday night. The Rockets went 34-7 at home in the regular season and were 4-0 at home in the postseason entering Game 2.
Joe Ingles led the way for the Jazz with a career-high 27 points, with 21 points coming thanks to his red-hot 7-of-9 shooting from behind the arc.
Utah star rookie Donovan Mitchell had a rough shooting night (6-of-21 from the field), but had 11 assists and threw down an incredible dunk that showed off his dunk contest-winning bounce with under seven minutes remaining:
Media reaction to that Donovan Mitchell follow-slam. pic.twitter.com/xQ885JB0wZ
— J.A. Adande (@jadande) May 3, 2018
And with just under a minute left, Dante Exum had a dagger dunk for the Jazz. Check out the stop-and-spin move he drops, before throwing down a vicious jam:
The Jazz led by as many as 19 in the first half, but the Rockets came back to take the lead in the third quarter. At the point, everyone watching the game likely felt the Rockets would end up pulling away, but the Jazz finished the game on a 24-14 run in the final eight minutes.
The Rockets shot 24% in 4th quarter, their 2nd-worst in any 4th quarter all season (reg season or playoffs).
It was especially bad in the final 8 minutes as the Jazz outscored the Rockets 24-14. pic.twitter.com/mrtj4YnpRc
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 3, 2018
So now the series heads back to Utah (and the Jazz now have home-court advantage if the series goes 6+ games), and it’s very difficult for road teams to win in Salt Lake City. Houston is certainly still favored to win this series, but it would no longer be surprising for the Jazz to at least make it a deep series.
Game 4 tips off at 10:30 PM ET on Friday night.