For a moment Monday, the Houston Rockets looked ready to put the Utah Jazz to bed for the season.
Facing a sweep on their home floor, the Jazz started Monday’s Game 4 strong to take a 53-47 in to halftime.
But Utah, outmatched all series and having drawn the short straw of the playoffs when the Rockets fell to the No. 4 seed, appeared to succumb to its superior opponent in the third quarter.
James Harden and company opened the second half on fire, outscoring the Jazz, 32-23 in a third quarter that appeared to signal the inevitability of a Houston sweep.
Mitchell, Jazz dominate 4th quarter
But the Jazz punched back in the fourth quarter with a 15-1 run to start the game’s closing stanza en route to a 107-91 victory to ensure the home crowd had one final reason to cheer this season.
Thanks to a monster fourth quarter from Donovan Mitchell and big games from Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder, the Jazz survived to play Game 5 in Houston on Wednesday.
Mitchell deflects to Crowder
Mitchell finished the game with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while scoring 19 in in the fourth quarter. His breakout was part of a dominant 31-12 fourth quarter from the Jazz, who appeared fueled in part by a raucous home crowd not ready to give up on the season.
After the game, Mitchell deflected to a teammate when asked about his big performance.
“Forget me,” Mitchell told TNT’s Allie LaForce. “Jae Crowder played his ass off. We all have been struggling with the shot all series. He came ready to play, and we followed that. He’s the heart and soul of that team.”
Crowder set the tone for the Jazz early. The veteran forward opened the game hitting 6-of-8 shots for 18 first-half points. He finished with 23 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
Rubio’s 18-point, 11-assist performance was also key to Utah’s survival.
Houston’s offensive struggles
Four Houston, Harden led the way with 30 points while hitting three big 3-pointers in the Rockets’ third-quarter run to take the lead. But he turned the ball over 8 times and went cold with the rest of his teammates as they limped to the finish with a 12-point fourth quarter.
The Rockets shot 35.4 percent from the field and turned the ball over 15 times on a night where their normally potent offense was inefficient and error-prone.
Trailing 3-1 in a series against a better opponent, Utah’s outlook is still dim. But for at least one night in these playoffs, the Jazz and their fans felt like winners.