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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell had his arms up before the shot had even left Bojan Bogdanovic’s hands.
The Utah Jazz were in trouble. Their 11-point fourth-quarter lead had been chipped down to just two with under two minutes remaining. Philadelphia had the momentum and Joel Embiid had taken over.
But one play wrestled the game back towards the Jazz.
Mitchell slowly dribbled the ball to the 3-point line, setting up a rare pick-and-roll with Bogdanovic. The 76ers wanted to get the ball out of his hands, so they hedged and doubled Mitchell. In theory, the Philadelphia plan worked. It forced Mitchell to pass. The problem was no one had rotated onto Bogdanovic.
Mitchell raised his arms in anticipated celebration and kept them there as the shot went up and in. That play helped steady the tide and allow the Jazz (5-3) to hold on for a 106-104 win over the 76ers (5-2) Wednesday at Vivint Arena.
“I saw that they're trying to double Donovan two times before that so I slipped the screen and he made a great read,” Bogdanovic said. “I was wide open for three.”
It wasn’t his only great read of the night. Mitchell finished with 24 points and eight assists to lead the Jazz. Bogdanovic added 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. Rudy Gobert had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Those rebounds proved to be a big part of Wednesday's win, too.
Ahead of the game, Mitchell was pretty blunt about his team’s recent struggles on the boards.
“We’re 6-1 if we box out,” he said on Tuesday.
Against Philadelphia — the best rebounding team in the league — the Jazz boxed out.
There were no critical late-game rebounds this time. Utah outrebounded the Sixers 50-42 and allowed just seven offensive boards.
So what changed?
“Oftentimes there's no magic,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It's just the level of focus and usually when you have a team like ours that has character and when something's taken from you, it hurts and it's painful. It brings your attention more to what you had to do.”
Near the end of the third quarter, Mitchell ran to a corner to save a loose ball. He flung the ball back across the court where George Niang and Joe Ingles both were. The two Jazz forwards, though, collided as they went for the ball allowing Philadelphia’s Josh Richardson to get it and go on a one-man fastbreak. Richardson was chased down by Jeff Green, who blocked the layup attempt but was called for the foul.
The sequence led to 76ers points but it was also the loudest the arena got all game. That was the effort and intensity that was missing at times in the Jazz’s previous two games.
“It just shows how much tenacity and how much will we have,” Mitchell said.
Utah used that type of energy to push its lead to 11 points entering the fourth quarter after holding Philadelphia to just 17 points in the third quarter. But Philadelphia didn’t go away quietly.
The Jazz had a ten-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but allowed a 14-6 run that cut that lead to just two points with under two minutes remaining. Embiid scored 27 points (and got to the free-throw line 18 times — fouling was one of the big negatives for the Jazz on Wednesday) and Richardson had 24.
But when Mitchell found Bogdanovic for the key 3-pointer with 1:39 remaining it gave the Jazz enough breathing room to hold on for the win.
“It was huge,” said Mike Conley, who had 15 points and six rebounds for Utah. “Especially against the kind of team we were playing. They’ve been playing really well and for us to kind of bounce back from a couple we felt like we could have won — and at home — to do that is important.”.
Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons exited the game in the second quarter and did not return after being diagnosed with a minor sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder.