The Houston Rockets were fantastic last night against Utah Jazz at the start of the playoffs. The Rockets crushed the guests from Salt Lake 122-90 and showed their excellent form.
Now, we all knew that Rockets play vicious offense, which will drop 120+ points on you easily. But what surprised all was the way they handled Utah defensively.
Only 90 points allowed, against a team which is solid in that aspect of the game, and has a diversified attack is quite a success.
Over the night everybody started talking about a new quality Houston has. Meanwhile, coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t startled with what he saw against the Jazzers.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we can defend,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “At all.”
When a reporter asked James Harden right after the game, what was all about with the defense which became one of top five in the league following the All-Star, the Beard simply responded.
“It’s go time,” Harden said. “It’s winner time. We know, that if we want to go where we want to go, we have to guard.”
The Rockets really had a tremendous defensive performance in Game 1. When looking at the shooting percentages, the Jazzers had only 25.9% from behind the arc, 7 of 27. Overall 30 of 77, for just 39%.
That is more than 10 FGs below their average regular season average.
“We have to disrupt their routes and their plays and things they like to do and make sure that they’re not comfortable. If we don’t do that, we don’t have a chance,” Harden explained.
Houston also forced the guests to have 19 turnovers, which is a lot in the playoffs. For the Jazzers this was the second-biggest defeat in the postseason. The only one worse was 21 years ago in the finals against the Bulls when Game 3 ended 96-54 in Chicago’s favor.
Utah’s best player, Donovan Mitchell had 19 points in 35 minutes, but without a single assist, and five turnovers. Rudy Gobert who had a team-high 22 points, had 4. It clearly shows that two focal figures in Jazzers offense had to go through a hell of trouble to reach the points.
“It’s one game, and you have to learn from it, but I can’t have no assists and five turnovers,” disappointed Mitchell said following the match.
The only moment in the game when the home team had a blackout happened at the start of the second half when Utah came down to -5, 66-61. Jazzers made a 17-7 run which set off the alarm among the Rockets who immediately responded with a 10-0 run and went to a comfortable lead once again.
On the other side, everything was well for the Rockets when talking about the attack. They had seven players with double-digit figures, and one with nine, with good shooting percentages, 36.6% from downtown, and 50.5% overall.
Harden was flirting with a triple-double, dropping 29 buckets on rival’s defense, 10 assists, and 8 boards, Capela had 16 and 12 boards, while Eric Gordon reached 17 points.
All in all, a perfect game for the Rockets. But Harden knows that this doesn’t mean anything and that each game is an entity of its own. He expects from Utah to bounce back and reply, as he has experience against them in the playoffs.
“Coach brought it in that ‘it’s only one game, they’re going to make adjustments, and we have to make adjustments, and we have to play that much harder and smarter.”
The next game is scheduled for this Wednesday. After that, the series will move on to Utah for games 3 and 4, played on Saturday and Wednesday 24th.
Houston and Utah split the series during the regular part of the season, and they both have one win on the road. The Jazzers defeated Rockets at the start of the season 89-100, using all the chaos going on back then at Toyota Center. It’s up to them now to show are they capable of doing it again, overcoming the adversities which include hosts’ excellent defense.