OKLAHOMA CITY — A time-tested formula for winning championships is that teams need two or three megastars. Shaq and Kobe, LeBron and Kyrie and, of course, the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
Wednesday, the Jazz trotted out their customary glitterati, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, who put up numbers galore. But for good measure, they invited others to join in.
At times, during their lull in the early season, it looked like the Jazz had no stars.
Now they’re coming out of the mop closets.
The Jazz have evened their playoff series at 1-1, thanks to a star turn or two from different places throughout the night. How else is a team that lost its only All-Star last summer going to survive?
Mitchell has star written all over his smile. Rudy Gobert is almost sure to be named Defensive Player of the Year. But these other guys. Who asked them to crowd their way into the spotlight?
Well, Quin Snyder, for one.
Asked after Wednesday’s Game 2 win over Oklahoma City if it was “somewhat of a luxury” to have different players shine in different places of the game, he said, “I would call it a luxury as much as an identity.”
Or they could just call it the “Potluck Surprise.”
Everybody brings something.
Thus the Jazz did exactly what they needed in order to bring the playoff series into a 1-1 tie. They served the Thunder a big bowl of mulligan stew. After Mitchell went off for 27 points in Game 1 Sunday, others took turns on Wednesday.
Derrick Favors scored 20 points and wrested 16 rebounds. Ricky Rubio tossed in 22 points to go with seven rebounds and nine assists. Meanwhile, Mitchell, who was supposed to be slowed with a left foot contusion, scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz cruised to a 102-95 win. Gobert was his usual self, pulling in 15 rebounds to go with 13 points.
It wasn’t just the sum contribution that mattered, it was the timing. Favors spent the first quarter manhandling Carmelo Anthony in the paint. He had seven rebounds in the first quarter, five offensive. That accounted for most of his nine points in that span.
In the last two minutes of the quarter, he rebounded, missed on the put-back, rebounded again. A few second later he rebounded a missed Jazz shot, that time stuffing the ball hard enough to bring down the ceiling.
Rubio scored eight second-quarter points and seven in the fourth.
Mitchell, though, decided it all in the fourth. He wasn’t perfect, but he was ready. That foot problem didn’t really make an appearance.
“It certainly wasn’t apparent,” Snyder said. “I think if he was feeling something, he didn’t show it, and he played through it.”
When he hurt his foot during Sunday’s game, Mitchell immediately downplayed the seriousness. Tuesday he wasn’t limping as he shot around after practice. By Wednesday morning, he showed no trouble doing stutter-steps and jump shots, but he didn’t fully declare himself whole.
Mitchell said in the morning he was “determined on playing” but “it’s a matter of being smart.”
If slightly overeager to compete, he could hardly be blamed. In his NBA playoff debut he logged his first double-double. Asked at Wednesday’s shoot-around whether Mitchell was 100 percent, coach Quin Snyder said, “We don’t know yet, so I guess he’s not 100 percent.”
He continued, “I don’t know if we’ll ever know if he’s 100 percent. He’s going to go through some of the pregame stuff and they’re looking at him as we speak, see how he moves, see how he feels, as far as how much pain he’s got, and go from there.”
An hour before tipoff, the picture still wasn’t complete.
“He’s been going through a warm-up routine, and then see how he’s feeling, then make a decision at that point whether he’ll go,” Snyder said. “He’s been getting better. Hopeful. ”
Thirteen minutes before tipoff, the official starting lineups arrived.
This is how anxious Mitchell was to go: He led the team on court for layup drills. Then he made the first basket of the game, via a steal and a layup.
It’s probable the Jazz wouldn’t have won if Mitchell had scratched. At the same time, the four-deep showing boded well for the long term. Mitchell won’t likely be carrying the team by himself.
“They all need each other,” Snyder said.
Streisand said it best: People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.