Mitchell's ability to facilitate provided a key spark in Utah's 116-108 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. The victory evened their Western Conference semifinals series at 1-1 and put the Rockets in a much tougher spot than expected heading into Game 3 on Friday.
Filling in for injured Ricky Rubio at point guard, Mitchell dished out a career-high 11 assists against Houston. He had seven assists in the first half alone. The Jazz clicked all over the court with the rookie at the controls, shooting 52 percent from the field overall -- including 15-of-32 from 3-point range.
"Just being poised and staying under control was the biggest thing," Mitchell said. "It allows me to be able to make those passes and make those reads. The second half, I got away from it, but started to get back to it."
Mitchell's teammates did the most with those reads. Joe Ingles went a career-best 7-of-9 from 3-point range en route to a career-high 27 points. Alec Burks and Jae Crowder combined for 32 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.
Making the right reads offensively also paid off on the other end of the court. The Jazz were able to be more aggressive defensively and keep the Rockets on their heels during the first half and then late in the second half.
Utah stayed poised even after Houston rallied from a 19-point deficit and took a five-point lead late in the third quarter.
"You're going to have breakdowns against these guys because they're so good," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "They put so much pressure on you. But I thought defensively we had a really good collective effort. We were a little tougher-minded on defense, more disciplined with what we were trying to do."
For Houston, the loss feels like an unexpected turn after it swept all four regular-season meetings with the Jazz. The Rockets put themselves in an early hole with a tepid start. They lacked energy in the first half and it showed.
Utah pushed the pace before halftime and generated tons of open 3-pointers or open layups and dunks. Houston seemed to be on cruise control early. Even after James Harden woke the team up late in the second quarter, scoring 12 points in four minutes to spark a rally, the Rockets never quite fully got back on track.
"We just lost our way in the first half," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I thought we played better [after halftime]. Series is on. We have to get it going now."
As a team, Houston shot just 10-of-37 (27 percent) from the perimeter. It offered a stark contrast from Game 1, where the Rockets went 17-of-32 from outside en route to a 110-96 win.
"They came out," Paul said. "They made shots. They were aggressive. We didn't. We got to stay more aggressive throughout the game on both ends."
Houston hasn't lost in Salt Lake City since falling 120-101 to the Jazz on Nov. 29, 2016. The Rockets won both regular-season games by 11 points -- most recently 96-85 on Feb. 26 behind 26 points and 11 rebounds from James Harden.