HOUSTON (Texas) • The Utah Jazz, not content with shocking top seeds the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, are confident of taking the lead when their National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference semi-final series moves back home today.
"We've been here before," guard Donovan Mitchell told Sports Illustrated after Utah seized home-court advantage, having done the same against the Oklahoma City Thunder before winning Games 3 and 4 en route to closing out that first-round series 4-2. "We've just got to come out ready to play."
The Rockets failed to do that in Game 2 and paid the price as the Jazz levelled the series at 1-1 with a 116-108 win.
Jazz forward Joe Ingles scored a career play-off high 27 points and Mitchell added 17 as Utah used a big fourth quarter to thwart a second-half comeback bid by superstar James Harden at the Toyota Centre.
Ingles drained seven of nine three-point attempts, including two late in the fourth quarter, when his three from the left corner with 4min 25sec left took the Jazz lead to 108-96.
Rookie star Mitchell provided the game's highlight, a one-handed dunk off the rebound of his own missed shot, that was key to Utah's 16-2 fourth-quarter scoring run.
4 Utah lost to Houston by doubles digits, by an average of 17.5 points, in all four regular-season games.
Moments before, he forced Harden into a 24-second violation, just one solid defensive move from a Jazz team that held the vaunted Rockets offence to 24 per cent shooting in the final period.
"The biggest thing is we defended," Mitchell said. "We'll take this win, but we need three more."
The Rockets, who made 17 of 32 three-pointers in Game 1, connected on just 10 of 37 from beyond the arc and were 38 for 95 from the field overall.
NBA scoring champion Harden had 32 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Rockets, who erased a 19-point first-half deficit to take a five-point lead in the third quarter.
"They came out with some thrust in that first half," Harden said after Utah shot 63.6 per cent in the opening period and carried a 36-28 lead into the second.
"They made shots, but they were wide-open shots. We came out a little too lackadaisical.
"If you give any team, especially in the post-season, that kind of confidence, it's pretty tough."
Houston beat Utah by double digits in each of the teams' four regular-season meetings this season. But the Jazz ended their regular season 29-6, making them the most in-form team after the All-Star break.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni warned his team against complacency.
"We can correct our energy and we can correct the necessary focus that we need to have," he told ESPN. "You get lulled into sleep. You think this stuff's easy (after the 110-96 Game 1 victory).
"It's not easy."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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East s-finals, Game 2: Singtel TV Ch110, 8.30am