Everyone waiting for the inevitable Western Conference Finals match between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets may just have to wait a little bit longer.
To be brutally honest, it may not be much longer, as the Warriors and Rockets are still overwhelming favorites to make the conference finals.
But for one night, the underdog Utah Jazz upended the Rockets 116-108 — in Houston — Wednesday to tie their second-round series at one game apiece, and it looks like a series.
The big thing everyone has been clamoring about after the Jazz win was star rookie Donovan Mitchell’s thunderous put-back slam dunk. To be fair, it was quite an emphatic play.
Donovan Mitchell brought the dunk contest to the playoffs ? pic.twitter.com/Jy6KJX5Gfm
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 3, 2018
“To be honest with you, I was just trying to shoot a floater and grab a rebound, but I just happened to be up there,” Mitchell told reporters after the game, per ESPN. “So I figured, why not come down with it?”
But as great as the dunk was, it was just one play worth two points in a non-clinching playoff game.
Rather, the real story about this game should be the other feat that Mitchell accomplished — tying a John Stockton assist record.
Stockton, the retired Utah Jazz legend, was a passing maestro. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists with 15,806. That figure is 3,000 more than the next-closest passer, Jason Kidd, and a staggering 5,000 more than the great Magic Johnson.
Granted, Stockton’s longevity and some generous assist interpretations from the Utah statisticians played a role in his lofty numbers, but the man is still mentioned on the short list of the best passers in NBA history.
So a rookie breaking a Stockton assist record is no trifling matter. And that’s exactly what Mitchell did in his game against the Rockets, notching 11 assists in the win.
Those 11 assists are the most dished out by a Jazz rookie in a playoff game since … John Stockton in 1985. Stockton was able to tally 10 assists as a rookie over 30 years ago.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 3, 2018
For Mitchell, it’s just another historic accomplishment in what’s quickly turning into a breakout playoff run for him.
Mitchell broke a Karl Malone record when he scored 33 points during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. That’s the most point scored by a Jazz rookie in a playoff game.
On top of numbers, the mere fact that the Jazz are in the playoffs, let alone in a tied second-round series against the top overall seed in the NBA, is a testament to Mitchell.
Many pundits expected the Jazz to fall out of the playoffs after losing star small forward Gordon Hayward in free agency.
But Mitchell, who was selected 13th overall in the 2017 NBA draft, turned out to be a revelation for a team in desperate need of playmaking and star power following Hayward’s departure. Mitchell averaged 20.5 points per game to go along with 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in the regular season. He has a legitimate claim to being Rookie of the Year.
The Jazz will look to maintain home court advantage when they host the Rockets in Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Friday.
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