The Houston Rockets successfully finished their series against the Utah Jazz. Last night’s 100-93 win over the Jazzers, wrapped up the series in five games, and Mike D’Antoni’s guys now have a few days of rest.
Though, nobody saw that coming because everybody expected to see the Warriors eliminating the Clippers a few hours later.
Well, almost everybody.
When one reporter asked coach D’Antoni to tell him how does he see Houston’s chances against the Warriors in the conference semis, he didn’t get the answer.
“We should wait, shouldn’t we?” D’Antoni asked the reporter. “It’s a little early isn’t it?”
The media guy didn’t want to hear that and he insisted on getting the response, but Houston’s coach cooled him off.
“It’s early,” the 67-year old said with a smile, constantly repeating “We’ll see.”
And he turned out to be right because Lou Williams also thought that it is too early to speak about the semifinals of the West.
Earlier that night the Rockets posted one excellent defensive game against the Jazz, limiting the guests to only 93 points. Thought they weren’t exactly fantastic on the offensive side of the ball, Houston prevailed.
Utah was constantly going back and forth, making several comebacks, from which one at 1:32 before the end might have cost Houston the game. Rubio scored a two-pointer, and suddenly visitors trailed just by one, 94-93.
But six scored free throws and Harden’s block on Rudy Gobert sealed this game and the series in Rocket’s favor.
Once again the tough defense stopped Donovan Mitchell who was 0 for 9 from downtown, and who couldn’t find his rhythm. Utah’s best player scored only 12 points with a horrifying 4 of 22 from the field and 5 turnovers. And in general, his whole team was poor form perimeter, going 9 of 38 from a distance.
Jazz was again limited to only 26 field goals for two.
One more interesting fact about Houston’s defense. For the first time since 1994, this team had double figures in both steals and blocks during one game. Last night they recorded 12 from each category.
Harden once again emphasized the importance of good defense in these playoffs. When you protect your basket well, everything else will be good.
“That’s what’s going to get us to our goal,” Beard said. “Obviously the shot making is extra, that’s a bonus. But if we’re guarding like we’ve been guarding and knocking down our shots, it’s going to be pretty tough.”
Harden’s bad shooting night didn’t affect the overall score too much. He was 10 of 26 from the field, and 3 of 12 for three. The still-reigning MVP of the league opened the match with only one hit in 11 tries. In the end, he reached 26 points and had 6 assists and 6 boards.
Other guys stepped up too. Clint Capela had 16 and 10 rebounds, Chris Paul 15 8 boards and 5 dimes while Eric Gordon recorded 15 buckets.
The interesting thing is that all the ones who appeared at the press conference didn’t want to talk about the Warriors and the possibility of meeting with them in the second round.
All except one. Clint Capela.
Unlike Chris Paul who didn’t want to comment anything, and told that his team needs to focus on themselves, or Harden who said that he would speak about that when the time comes, the Swiss player was more than direct.
“Yeah I want to face them,” Capela stated, with Chris Paul adding that the big fella is going to end all over Bleacher Report.
The 24-year-old said that he was working the whole year waiting this moment and that he feels ready for it.
“I think that if you wanna be a champion, you got to beat the champion.”
It seems that the series between these two rival will have to wait for some time, and after what we saw last night, maybe even reschedule for the next season.
With all due respect to all, but the Clippers want to be heard in this story.
But anyway, that doesn’t concern Houston, who is now preparing for the upcoming challenges. Regardless of the opponent.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.