LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Donovan Mitchell scored 45 points and Rudy Gobert made a clutch block at the buzzer as the Utah Jazz rallied to beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 112-109, in the opening game of their NBA playoff series on Tuesday.
Mitchell scored 32 of his game high 45 in the second half, carrying the Jazz on his back offensively after the team got off to a sluggish start in the best-of-seven Western Conference second round series.
“I let my team down in the first half,” Mitchell said. “They were kicking my butt. I said, ‘It is on me’. I had to set the tone and I did.”
Game two is Thursday in Utah.
Mitchell got help on the defensive end from France’s Gobert, who is in the running to win his third defensive player of the year award.
Gobert helped sealed the win when he denied Clippers forward Marcus Morris’s three-point attempt at the final buzzer in front of the crowd of 18,007 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Elsewhere, Joel Embiid scored a playoff career high 40 points and added 13 rebounds as the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers toppled the Atlanta Hawks, 118-102 to level their Eastern Conference series at one game each.
Tobias Harris tallied 22 points, Seth Curry finished with 21 and five threes, and Shake Milton came off the bench to score 14 points as the Sixers reserves scored 26 points in the second half in front of a crowd of 18,600 at Wells Fargo Center.
JOKIC WINS MVP
Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player on Tuesday, completing a remarkable rise to the pinnacle of basketball after entering the league in 2014 as a lowly 41st draft pick.
The 6ft 11in (2.10m) Serbian centER scooped the season MVP honors after a 2020/2021 campaign that has seen him average a career-best 26.4 points per game with 8.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds.
Jokic is the fifth international player to win the award after Hakeem Olajuwon (1994), Steve Nash (2005, 2006), Dirk Nowitzki (2007) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019, 2020).
Jokic beat out competition from the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and Philadelphia 76ers ace Joel Embiid who were both finalists for the award.