Donovan “Spida” Mitchell shrugged off a poor first half and led the Utah Jazz to a comeback victory with 45 points in Game 1 against the LA Clippers. Even with a painful knee injury, Joel Embiid from the Philadelphia 76ers dominated the Atlanta Hawks with 40 points in a Game 2 victory to even their series at 1-1.
In his brief career, Mitchell now has four games with 40 points or more in his last 12 playoff games dating back to last year inside the NBA Bubble.
Embiid suffered a torn meniscus injury in the first round against the Washington Wizards. He opted to play through the pain in the second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. In Game 1, Embiid scored 39 points in a losing cause for the 76ers, then added 40 points in a much-needed victory in Game 2.
Another big night for Embiid
Embiid missed out on winning the 2021 NBA MVP, finishing second behind Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets. Embiid averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in the regular season. His PER rating of 30.32 was ranked #2 in the NBA.
“As a player you work hard for moments like this, but it’s out of my control,” said a disappointed Embiid. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Embiid appeared in only 51 games with the 76ers due to a hyper-extended knee and a bone bruise. Meanwhile, a healthy Jokic didn’t miss a game and appeared in all 72 contests for the Nuggets in this slightly shortened season.
In two games against the Hawks, Embiid averages 39.5 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks per game. The Hawks, especially big man Clint Capela, have been unable to slow down Embiid, even with a bum knee. The 76ers secured the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference finals, but a slow start doomed them in Game 1 against the Hawks.
The 76ers cobbled together a late rally in the fourth quarter, but it came up short and they lost by four points. In Game 2, the 76ers hit their stride out of the gate and the Hawks were chasing them all night long. The 76ers held on to win by 16 points, but were up by 20-plus for most of the second half.
In Game 2, Embiid shot 13-for-25 from the floor, including 2-for-5 from 3-point land, and 12-for-16 from the free-throw line.
Spida shines in Q3
The Utah Jazz didn’t have starting point guard Mike Conley, who missed Game 1 with a hamstring injury. As a result, the Jazz fell behind against the LA Clippers in the first half. The Jazz rallied after halftime thanks to an inspiring performance from Mitchell, whom everyone refers to as “Spida,” when he scored 32 of his game-high 45 points in the second half
“I didn’t do a lot of things right for my team in the first half, and it ate at me,” said Mitchell, who played poorly on defense.
Mitchell scored four consecutive buckets to start the third quarter, tallying 16 points in just nine minutes of action to get the Jazz back in the game. Mitchell spearheaded a 13-4 run to propel the Jazz into a lead by the end of the quarter.
“I’m just happy with how I was able to control the pace,” added Mitchell. “That’s something I’ve tried to make strides with throughout my career.”
After a rough first half, Mitchell finished with 16-for-30 from the floor, including 6-for-15 from 3-point land. Mitchell also shot 7-for-8 from the charity stripe to add to his 45 points in 37 minutes of action.
Mitchell missed the last few weeks of the regular season with a sprained ankle. The Jazz kept him out of Game 1 of the first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, which the Jazz promptly lost. Since returning to the starting lineup in Game 2, the Jazz won five games in a row. Mitchell averages 31.8 ppg in five postseason games so far.