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  • SALT LAKE CITY — It turns out the Utah Jazz can be just as tough to stop when Donovan Mitchell is running the offense instead of simply creating it.

    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 Odell Beckham Jr Jersey , 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.”

    Harden finished with 32 points, Chris Paul added 23 and Clint Capela chipped in 21 points. But Paul and Harden both struggled with their outside shot Mike Hull Jersey , going a combined 4 of 15 from 3-point range.

    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 to 120-101 to the Jazz on November 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.

    First-year Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks has wanted players to separate themselves in the crowded competition at wide receiver.

     

    Christian Kirk and Chad Williams seem to have done just that.

    Both youngsters had impressive nights in the Cardinals' 20-15 preseason victory at New Orleans on Friday night.

    Kirk, a second-round pick from Texas A&M, caught four passes for 49 yards, including a 13-yard dart in traffic from fellow rookie Josh Rosen for a touchdown. Williams, a third-round pick from Grambling State in 2017, caught three for 44 yards.

    "Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, the way they performed. Tough catches Bruce Smith Jersey , yardage after with Chad," Wilks said after the team returned to practice Sunday. "I thought those guys stepped up. I thought they created a little bit of separation. It's ongoing in that room so I'm looking for guys to continue to get better."

    Kirk and Williams took advantage of the absence of wide receiver Brice Butler, out with a foot injury. Butler had been listed as the No. 2 receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald on the depth chart but Wilks had declared the positon "pretty wide open" during training camp.

    "With Brice being out, there's more opportunities to go out and show what we can do," Kirk said. "I'm really excited with how we played and looking forward to another good week of practice and getting out there in Dallas and do it again."

    Kirk, who grew up in suburban Phoenix as a Cardinals fan, made his presence felt the first time he touched the ball, returning a punt 38 yards in Arizona's first preseason game, a 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He would have had a touchdown, most likely, had he not slipped making a move on the final would-be tackler, the punter.

    Now he's trying to show that he's not just a specialist but a reliable big-play threat as a receiver.

    "You've just got to learn week by week Rex Burkhead Jersey , whether it's the speed of the game, the playbook, I mean it all just comes more natural the more reps that you get," Kirk said. "You get used to the looks that you're seeing. It's getting a lot easier. I feel like I've made bounds and strides from when I first stepped in here."

    Wide receiver is a big question mark for the Cardinals, with no truly proven players 鈥?except perhaps Butler 鈥?beyond Fitzgerald, who enters his 15th NFL season with career statistics among the greatest in the game's history.

    So the showing of the youngsters was welcome news.

    That might be particularly true of Williams, who struggled through a difficult rookie season, appearing in only six games with three catches for 31 yards.

    Has the light come on?

    "He's just such a competitor," Wilks said. "He understands exactly what he needs to do. He wasn't satisfied with some of the things that happened last year, the inconsistency, so I think he's ready to step up."

    Williams said he's much more at ease.

    "I feel like it's sunk in and I know the way of going about things," he said Archie Manning Jersey , "and it just comes natural now."

    The Cardinals wrapped up their relatively brief training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Wednesday. They will work out Monday, have Tuesday off, then practice Wednesday through Friday in preparation for their Sunday game at Dallas.

    "This was always in the plans because really I wanted those guys to get acclimated to how we're going to do it during the year, to get away from the University of Phoenix Stadium and get back here and get down to the routine," Wilks aid. "Routine is so important to me."

    Notes: Wilks said there will be no rush to get DT Robert Nkemdiche back after the former first-round draft pick left Friday night's game with a foot injury. "I really don't have a timetable on it right now," Wilks said. "Just taking to the trainers, we're just going to take it day to day and see how it goes."

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