OKLAHOMA CITY -- Any time you're doing something better than Michael Jordan, especially in the playoffs, you're really doing something. And with 55 points in his first two playoff games, including 28 in a 102-95 Game 2 win over the Thunder on Wednesday, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell topped Jordan's record for most points by a guard in his initial two postseason contests.
After the Thunder went on a 19-0 run to take control late in the third quarter, Mitchell helped bring the Jazz back by scoring 12 points in Utah's 14-3 run. He closed a 10-point deficit to five in the final minute of the third quarter, then slammed the door on the Thunder in the fourth, punctuating the effort with a spinning layup with 1:33 left.
"There was just a point where I stopped being aggressive," Mitchell said. "Big thing with Rudy [Gobert], he let me know -- I went 0-for-7 from 3, I'm letting guys off the hook. I need to keep applying pressure, getting to the rim. Even if I miss, as you saw on the boards, they were right there crashing and getting rebounds.
"Just being aggressive, getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line. I didn't have a free throw until the second half, so 'just continue to be aggressive' was my mindset."
Mitchell eclipsed the 53 points Jordan put up in his first two playoff tilts in 1985.
Mitchell entered the game questionable with left foot soreness and appeared to be dealing with some discomfort in the first half. After missing a dunk and a layup in the third quarter, when the Thunder went on their big run, Mitchell bounced back and took over.
"Donovan, obviously, his aggressiveness on the offensive end fueled us there," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I think if he was feeling something, he didn't show it, and he played through it."
With a heavy burden on his back as a rookie, Mitchell has sparkled in the opening two games of the series, going toe to toe with the Thunder's star-studded roster. The Thunder have primarily used Corey Brewer to guard Mitchell, but after changing defensive coverages in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, Russell Westbrook and then Paul George took on checking the Jazz guard.
"I thought we did a solid job early in the game focusing in on Donovan, and the fourth quarter he got some looks, made some shots and they had the momentum," Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony said. "They made adjustments from Game 1, and now it's our turn to make adjustments and figure out what we're going to do -- not just with Donovan, but as a whole, what we're going to do defensively."
The fourth quarter saw a striking contrast between the Jazz and the Thunder, with OKC's three stars combining to go 0-of-14 from the floor: Anthony went 0-of-4, George went 0-of-6 and Westbrook went 0-of-4.
"I don't know," Anthony said. "We missed. We all missed. I don't really have an answer to what happened or an excuse why we didn't make shots. We just didn't make shots in that fourth quarter."
When asked if Utah's defensive coverage influenced any of OKC's issues, Westbrook said: "I got what I wanted. Picked them apart, was able to get open shots."
After dropping 36 points on 13-of-20 shooting in Game 1, validating his self-given "Playoff P" moniker, George finished with 18 points on 6-of-21 shooting in Game 2. Asked if the attention given to the nickname added any pressure, George shrugged it off.
"Was I stressed tonight? There's no stress," he said. "Nah, there's no stress. It's not like it's a name I'm trying to live up to."
Sitting next to George at the podium, Anthony jokingly interjected. "Can't give it back now," he said, laughing to himself.
"Playoff P, win or lose. Playoff P is out there regardless," George said. "There's no stress with that, no pressure with that."
George was dealing with a hip contusion he had suffered in Game 1, which limited him to light participation in practice the past few days and had him a bit of a question mark entering Game 2. He indicated he wasn't quite 100 percent on Wednesday.
"It was a huge turnaround," George said of his hip. "After not being able to put shorts on to obviously playing tonight, it was a huge turnaround. I expect these two, three days, in between going to Utah, I should be back to 100."
Game 3 is Saturday in Salt Lake City.