HOUSTON – OK, Houston fans. You can snap out of your funk because the NBA playoff series with the Rockets and Utah Jazz finally resumes after an extended and uneventful three-day break since the series opener.
Sunday the Rockets dominated Game 1, beating Utah 122-90, to get the series underway. After a long break, we finally get Game 2 Wednesday night at the Toyota Center with the Rockets looking to go up 2-0 in this best-of -even first-round series.
It's pretty simple. When you give the Rockets too many gifts like Utah did in Game 1, you are not going to beat Houston.
“There are some things we want to do that we didn’t execute in Game 1,” said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. “There needs to be more determination on our end in Game 2.”
The Rockets got after the Jazz and took advantage of Utah’s early turnover issues building a 15-point lead at halftime, a 12-point cushion after the third before turning it up a notch in the fourth quarter, where they outscored the Jazz 39-19 en route to the blowout victory.
Utah finished with 18 turnovers in the loss, and a repeat of that will result in going back to Salt Lake City trailing the series.
Houston shot over 50% from the field with James Harden leading the way with 29 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists. Houston as a team connected on 15 three-pointers while the Rockets defense locked down and held Utah to just 7-27 from distance.
Utah entered the game allowing just over 106 points per game defensively and couldn’t find stops most of the night at Toyota Center.
How will Utah respond after a disappointing effort on the defensive end? Their numbers indicate they will bounce back as they have done on several occasions this season following a defensive meltdown.
Keys to Rockets win in Game 2
The Beard needs to be the man in all phases. That’s not asking a lot, because he basically does it every time he steps on the floor. Utah is a great defensive team and Harden is well-aware that Houston will see a motivated Jazz team that can make stops. In Game 1, the Jazz went with the Milwaukee Bucks approach and forced Harden to his right. That didn’t work out too well as Harden got his points and found his open guys most of the night. With Harden, it’s just about slowing him down and that is easier said than done as we’ve seen all season.
Much like the approach in Game 1 and most of the season, the Rockets thrive when they dictate the pace. Harden will lead the way with some help from Chris Paul and this Rockets offense can be fun to watch. Slow it down and they make mistakes which the Jazz will attempt to do after the Game 1 loss and nearly three days of making adjustments. Harden got his points, but Chris Paul’s 14 points, Clint Capela’s 16 points and 12 rebounds and the combo of Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker combining for 28 points (6-12 on three-pointers) was too much firepower for Utah to handle. The bench for Houston was big, too, with Danuel House knocking down 11 points.
Home sweet home
The Rockets need to ride the momentum of the home court, where they are now 32-6 since starting 0-4 at the beginning the season.
The Rockets are favored to get it done in Game 2 as they should be but look out for Utah who will look to Donovan Williams to break out and the Jazz overall to play much better than in the Game 1 blowout loss. The Jazz won Game 2 last year and can easily do it again if the Rockets come out flat.
I expect a closer game, but with Houston still coming out on top and taking this series back to Salt Lake City with a 2-0 lead.