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Paul George, after working out together, helped convince Donovan Mitchell to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft rather than return to Louisville for his junior year.

“When you have All-Stars telling you that you could be really good in this league,” Mitchell said, “I think that’s going to raise your level [of confidence].”

Now, Mitchell is the confident star and George could use the pep talk.

Mitchell scored 45 points to lead the Jazz to a 112-109 win over George’s Clippers in Game 1 Tuesday.

Heavily scrutinized for his postseason performances, George shot just 4-for-17. “I’m coming back with vengeance” remains a punchline.

For a while tonight, Utah was the joke. The Jazz missed 20 straight shots in the first quarter and trailed by 13 at halftime.

But Mitchell opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run that shifted momentum, and he stayed hot. Mitchell scored 32 of his 45 points in the second half – the highest-scoring individual second half of these playoffs.

Teams that won Game 1 of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 85% of the time. However, this isn’t necessarily a typical 1-4 series. The fourth-seeded Clippers opened the series as favorite over the top-seeded Jazz

L.A. has plenty of upside. George is talented (which is why his postseason letdowns get mocked so mercilessly). Kawhi Leonard (23 points) is often a dominant postseason player, though he wasn’t tonight.

Playing at altitude just two days after finishing a seven-game series against the Mavericks, the Clippers used a deep rotation. Eleven Clippers played – with even DeMarcus Cousins providing a spark off the bench. Luke Kennard scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Maybe the Clippers’ deep reserves won’t play as well in Game 2 Thursday. But L.A.’s stars should play better.

At least one of them.

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Jazz star Donovan Mitchell lights up Clippers in Game 1, Paul George struggles originally appeared on