HOUSTON — Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t going to give his team credit for Donovan Mitchell's less-than-spectacular Game 1.
“It’s not what we did, he just didn't have a great game,” D’Antoni said. “We tried but it’s not like, ‘Oh yeah, we have a formula’ or anything.’”
Maybe not a formula, but definitely an emphasis. The Rockets defensive gameplan was to try and stop Mitchell from getting into the paint. That meant being aggressive and physical with him on the perimeter as he tried to work his way inside. And for the most part, it worked.
Mitchell scored 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting. And had five turnovers with zero assists.
But Mitchell has been here before.
Some of the second-year guard's early-season struggles can be attributed to teams loading up to stop him. He adjusted to the extra attention and was one of best players in the league during the second half of the season.
Mitchell doesn’t have a couple of months to get things going this time, but he doesn’t think he needs them either. Because, as D’Antoni admitted, the Rockets don’t have a secret formula to contain the young star.
“I have seen the coverages a lot,” said Mitchell. “They do it much better in the playoffs. Sometimes it takes a game to figure that out and see that.”
Mitchell averaged 23.3 points per game against the Rockets this season and was especially phenomenal in the two games in Houston where he averaged 30.5 points on 46.8 percent shooting. So it’s not a Houston problem, he just thinks it was a Game 1 issue.
“For me, just going out there and doing what I have been doing all season,” Mitchell said.
But the Jazz are trying to find ways to get him going heading into Game 2.
Derrick Favors said that the Utah bigs need to do a better job in setting better screens to give Mitchell space to operate. And Snyder said he’ll mix up Mitchell having the ball in his hands, initiating the offense with him coming off-ball screens to give the Rockets different looks.
Snyder, Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant and a number of his teammates have also stressed to Mitchell that he needs to make quicker decisions.
But everyone from Mitchell, his teammates, his coaches, and even the Rockets seem sure that he'll find his footing sooner than later.
“He’ll play better," D'Antoni said. "We just gotta keep making it hard on him, and hopefully he won’t get it going. But he could.”
Rockets weary of last year’s Game 2 loss
Houston’s James Harden and Chris Paul know the euphoric feeling of winning in the playoffs and how bad it hurts to lose.
“When you win, you feel like you are never going to lose again,” Paul said. “And when you lose you feel like you are never going to win again.”
And after a 32-point win, it’s sometimes hard not to get a little overconfident. But the Rockets don’t think they’ll have that problem this year. The reason? Last season’s Game 2 loss to the Jazz.
That result has given the Rockets some extra resolve as they prepare for Wednesday’s Game 2.
“This is a great team,” Harden said of the Jazz. “And we can’t overlook them. And we are not.”
But D’Antoni knows that it’s one thing to say that — it’s another thing to play like it.
“We still gotta have the killer instinct and the mindset and the appropriate fear entering this game,” D’Antoni said. “And hopefully we have that.”
Gobert says it was ‘tough to watch’ Notre Dame in flames
Jazz center Rudy Gobert had the same feeling many on Tuesday did when videos of Notre Dame Cathedral in flames circulated around the world.
“It's tough to watch,” said Gobert, whose hometown of Saint-Quentin, France, is about two hours from Paris. “It's one of the most iconic monuments not only in France but in history, in general.
"It was built before my grand-, grand-, grand-, grand-grandparents were born, so it's something that has a lot of value in our hearts," he continued. "It's tough to watch. It's great they were able to save some of it.”