Jazz fall in heartbreaker to Thunder

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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell finally got a call.

Trailing by two with seven seconds remaining, Mitchell roasted Paul George on the perimeter, drove in and took off for a game-tying dunk. As Mitchell cocked the ball back, Russell Westbrook hit the ball out of Mitchell’s hand but was called for a foul in the process.

The second-year star went to the line for a chance to tie the game with less than two seconds left.

He missed the first. And then tried, unsuccessfully, to miss the second. And with that, the Oklahoma City Thunder survived a furious Utah Jazz rally to hold on for a 107-106 win Saturday at Vivint Arena.

“I thought it was in,” Mitchell said. “It was just in and out.”

Mitchell and Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 20 points apiece. Ricky Rubio had 12 points and 14 assists in the game and was masterful in leading a Jazz offense that finished with 35 assists. And one that left plenty more on the court by missing shots.

It didn’t take long for things to get heated on Saturday.

Joe Ingles and Westbrook collided going after a loose ball and exchanged some, uh, pleasantries as an official stood between them. A rivalry that was strengthened during last season’s six-game series got another memorable chapter Saturday at Vivint Arena.

But some memories aren’t always good.

Saturday’s game tried to fit in the roller coaster of a long playoff series all on its own.

You want a classic Rubio performance? What about an unreal stretch from Paul George? Rapid momentum changes? Huge runs? Saturday's game had it all. And, of course, no classic game would be complete without some unpopular calls. It was like last season’s first-round series was all grouped into one game — except there was a different winner.

But it still all added up for one heckuva a basketball game.

The playoff series may have added some fuel to the game, but Saturday’s contest was as intense as it was because two really good basketball teams played at an incredibly high level for a majority of the game.

And no one was better than George.

The Thunder forward scored 43 points on 15-for-25 shooting. And it wasn’t like the Jazz weren’t trying to take the ball out of his hands. George hit tough, contested fadeaways, including a corner 3-pointer fading into the baseline. Led by George, the Thunder went on a 23-2 run at the end of the third quarter to take a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

And with the Jazz playing on the second night of a back-to-back, it looked like the Thunder were about to run away with the game. They did no such thing.

Despite the Jazz missing open look after open look (the home crowd’s groans growing louder with each one), the Utah defense kept the Jazz alive. Oklahoma City scored just 14 points in the fourth quarter which allowed for one exciting finish.

“I think our guys felt confident shooting the ball,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “A few of them were just in and out. If we were fatigued, we did a good job, I think of playing through that.”

Mitchell secured a rebound and raced down the court and converted a layup to cut the Oklahoma City lead to 107-105 with under 40 seconds remaining.

It was another Mitchell drive, though, that may have helped swing the game to the Thunder. Mitchell was on a breakaway late in the fourth quarter, when he appeared to get hit by Westbrook, but no foul was called. The collision left Mitchell on the ground under the Jazz basket which allowed the Thunder to get a wide-open jumper from Terrance Ferguson. That four-point swing loomed large in the one-point contest.

After the Jazz defense forced an OKC miss on its final possession, the Jazz still had one last chance to tie or win the game. Mitchell got close, but his missed free throw ended Utah’s hopes.

“I figured if I tried to lay it up they would all just try and block it so I thought the only way to get a foul was to go up and dunk it," Mitchell said. “And if I would have went up with two (hands), I wouldn’t have got as high.”

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