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Donovan Mitchell wasn’t perfect in Jazz’s Game 3 win, but he showed up at the perfect time



Donovan Mitchell wasn't perfect in Jazz's Game 3 win, but he showed up at the perfect time

Donovan Mitchell did not have a good game on Saturday night. That’s not someone playing armchair quarterback — that’s straight from the man himself.

After the Jazz’s 121-111 victory over the Grizzlies in Game 3 of their first-round series, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt asked Mitchell about regaining his previous level of conditioning following a lengthy recovery from an ankle injury, which forced him to sit out Utah’s playoff opener. Van Pelt noted that the All-Star guard had played well despite the layoff, but Mitchell disagreed.

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“To be honest with you, I didn’t play well,” Mitchell said. “I was there in moments, but I think there were times I missed my teammates on a few things, and there’s things I can definitely do better.”

Sure, Mitchell could have been a little bit sharper and a little bit more efficient (29 points on 9-of-23 shooting), but those moments he referenced were pretty damn important.

Utah kept Memphis at arm’s length throughout the first three quarters. Then the persistent Grizzlies rattled off an 8-0 run to start the final frame and stormed all the way back to take a 109-107 lead with just over four minutes to go. From that point forward, though, Mitchell took over.

The 24-year-old scored 10 of the Jazz’s last 14 points in that four-minute stretch as the Grizzlies went cold, missing their last nine field goal attempts. Mitchell drove to the basket for an and-one finish, hit a pull-up 3-pointer and, perhaps most importantly, drew a sixth foul on Dillon Brooks with two minutes to go, taking out one of Memphis’ most important players on both ends of the floor.

“He’s such a competitor, and he’s thinking about winning,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said of Mitchell (via The Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden). “When you have a guy that believes in himself that much, believes in his teammates, has that competitive fire, he’s going to make things happen.”

Much like they have all season long, the Jazz won Game 3 and took a 2-1 series lead as a team. All five starters hit double-figure scoring. The 3-pointers were flying. Rudy Gobert made his presence felt in the paint. Mike Conley, who gave so many terrific years to the Grizzlies, poured in 27 points and dished out eight assists in front of the FedEx Forum crowd. (Mitchell said Conley was “big time” in the win.)

But in the playoffs, particularly in crunch time, key possessions often come down to offensive creators throwing out the playbook, the ball movement, the search for a perfect shot. On those possessions, “the guy” just needs to figure out how to get a bucket.

Mitchell knows he can be better — he likely will be better as his minutes rise — but one thing won’t change: He will still be “the guy” in those moments. And if he continues to perform like he did Saturday, the Jazz will be feeling good about their chances of making a deep run.

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers



Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

Deandre Ayton was the hero for the Suns in their Game 2 win over the Clippers.

With less than a second left on the clock, the Suns were down one point and had just 0.9 seconds to get a shot off. Jae Crowder inbounded the ball on the baseline under the Suns’ basket and found Ayton cutting to the hoop.

Ayton threw it down. The play took just 0.2 seconds off the clock and sealed the 104-103 win for the Suns.

Here’s a look at the amazing finish.

Ayton and Crowder deserve a bulk of the credit, but Devin Booker had an impact on the finish as well. His physical screen on Ivica Zubac — who is seven inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Booker — gave Ayton just enough space to get open off the cut and throw down the dunk.

And Booker put his body on the line despite playing with a bloodied nose that required stitches after an inadvertent hit from Patrick Beverley earlier in the game.

The Suns’ finish thrilled Phoenix fans as well as the team’s star point guard Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He took time to celebrate the victory on Twitter and praised coach Monty Williams for his “big-time play call.”

Indeed, it was a nice play call, and Williams made sure Ayton was prepared to dunk immediately after catching the ball.

“DA — if he throws it, you gotta try to dunk it,” Williams said. “Okay?”

Ayton was ready and obliged. As a result of his make, NBA Twitter erupted and celebrated the exciting end to yet another tightly-contested playoff battle. 

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Clippers’ Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns



Clippers' Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

The box score from Tuesday’s Suns-Clippers game — a pivotal Game 2 win for Phoenix in the Western Conference finals — will show Paul George had a decent game.

Twenty-six points, on 10-of-23 shooting; six assists; six rebounds; and 5-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also scored his team’s last six points, all within the last minute, to help the Clippers to a 103-102 lead with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

The only stats that ultimately mattered in the Clippers’ 104-103 loss, however, were the final two free throws George — a career 84.7-percent free throw shooter — missed. They ultimately allowed Phoenix a chance at an unbelievable comeback victory, which may prove costly even as the series heads back to LA.

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Had George sunk both of those shots, the Suns would have needed a 3-pointer just to send the game to overtime. Had he sunk even one shot, they would have needed a 2-pointer. But he missed both, allowing the Suns to win on an inbound dunk with less than a second remaining:

Credit to Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and the Suns. That play will go down as one of the top plays in NBA playoffs history. But every heartbreaking loss needs a goat, and no one fits the bill better than “Playoff P,” who could have secured a win for his team with the simplest of basketball scoring plays.

Here’s the bright side for the Clippers, if there is one: They have already overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their first two series against the Mavericks and Jazz, respectively. That’s likely a cold comfort as George and Co. head back to LA, however. The scathing Twitter comments aimed at George likely won’t do anything to help, either:

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Athletics’ Sergio Romo pulls down pants during substance check



Athletics' Sergio Romo pulls down pants during substance check

MLB pitchers aren’t taking kindly to the league’s new foreign substance rules.

Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo seemed particularly annoyed that the umpires performed a substance check on him Tuesday night.

After working a one-run seventh inning for Oakland, the umpire beckoned for Romo to come over for the check. Romo responded to the moment by tossing his hat and glove to the ground and whipping his belt off.

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Then came Romo’s final act. He pulled his pants halfway down to prove that he wasn’t harboring any illegal substances.

Romo certainly made his point, but Dan Iassogna, the umpire checking him, didn’t seem too bothered by his high jinks. In fact, the umpire flashed a smile at Romo, who the broadcast described as “heated.”

Romo wasn’t alone in being bothered by the substance check on Tuesday. Max Scherzer was checked for foreign substances three times in the first four innings of the Nationals-Phillies game and became increasingly irritable with each examination. He directed his rage at Phillies manager Joe Girardi, who was later ejected for jawing at Scherzer. The checks didn’t seem to faze the three-time Cy Young winner too much; he earned the win, pitching five innings while giving up just a run and striking out eight.

Needless to say, these antics will be fairly common as MLB attempts to implement these rule changes on the fly.

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