HOUSTON -- Rookie star Donovan Mitchell didn't expect to throw down a thunderous dunk when he went up for a rebound of his own miss in heavy traffic during the fourth quarter Wednesday night.
"To be honest with you, I was just trying to shoot a floater and grab a rebound, but I just happened to be up there," Mitchell said after the Utah Jazz evened their Western Conference semifinal series with a 116-108 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 2. "So I figured, why not come down with it?"
Mitchell's ferocious right-handed putback dunk was the highlight of the Jazz's upset over the top-seeded Rockets. The reigning NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion said it was one of the best dunks of his sensational rookie season, considering the stage and circumstances.
"That was my first one really on [national] TV," Mitchell said. "I had a few like that, but that was pretty cool in the playoffs to be able to do that."
The dunk came after the 6-foot-3 Mitchell drove against Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza and put up an off-balance floater that fell short. Mitchell quickly gathered himself, launched off two feet, caught the ball and slammed it in over the entire Houston frontcourt, with Ariza, power forward PJ Tucker and Clint Capela all getting posterized.
Mitchell's spectacular slam came at a critical moment in the game. It pushed the Jazz's advantage to six points with 6:11 remaining in the game, part of a 16-2 run that gave Utah the lead for good after the Rockets had rallied from a 19-point deficit.
Mitchell contributed to all but one point in that run, although a free throw was his only other point besides the dunk during the spurt, when he assisted on four 3-pointers.
"That's a lot to ask Donovan, to put the ball in his hands at the point and then expect him to make those decisions, as well," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Sometimes that's harder than scoring, especially for someone that [doesn't] do that all game long and certainly in a setting like this. He was focused on that, he was focused on making the right play. I thought he not only made some creative passes, but he made some simple passes that were reflective of him making the right decisions."
Jazz small forward Joe Ingles, a frequent playful critic of his rookie teammate, joked that Mitchell made a poor decision by attempting his highlight dunk.
"His midair decision should have been to get back on transition defense," said Ingles, who had a career-high 27 points. "Guarantee you that's in the film session tomorrow. ... I don't know what his midair decision was because I've never been in that situation. And I never will be. But yeah, just get back in transition defense. That's all he needs to know."