Jazz vs Rockets

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Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz Game preview

We’re unlikely to see another Game 1-type result again.

Utah was living on 36 hours of rest after their intense series against the Thunder, and it showed. In the first half, the Rockets got whatever they wanted. Defensively, they weren’t tested by an exhausted Jazz squad.

The second half was one of those halves that is hard to parse in hindsight. Obviously, Jazz fans will say that the second half was more indicative of their play style and that they have some tricks to slow down Houston’s high-octane offense. “They can’t make above 50% from deep every night,” they’ll say. Rudy Gobert will bother James Harden more in the paint Donovan Mitchell will show off his superstar chops.

Of course, Rockets fans have a response of their own, and they’ll say that the second half lull was more due to taking their foot off the gas than anything Utah did on either end of the court. Houston finally made a fair chunk of threes after struggling to make shots against Minnesota at times. Harden missed several bunnies and floaters so he can be even better from the field. Finally, Houston has the ability to throw bodies at Mitchell that OKC just didn’t have: Trevor Ariza, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and even P.J. Tucker if needed.

I’m not sure who’s right, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I expect Houston’s shooters to struggle since that is their normal state in this postseason, and for Harden or Chris Paul to step up and have a big game. As always, everything starts on defense for Houston. Even if the Rockets score 110 points like they did in Game 1, it won’t mean anything if they give up 111.

The shots fall, plain and simple. The Rockets are clearly the more talented team in this series, which is a testament to the breadth of their talent and not the Jazz’s lack of it. Donovan Mitchell can create problems for the Rockets, but with the shooting firepower that the Rockets have, they’re a much more intimidating team to face off against than the Thunder. That’s especially true in a series in which Russell Westbrook became an offensive black hole. The Rockets have three to four shooters on the floor at any given time, making them an extremely tough match-up.

The Rockets’ struggles from the field — which could be the result of the Jazz’s incredible defense — continue, and Ricky Rubio keeps facilitating the offense as efficiently as he has been. If the Rockets get Games 2 and 3 Harden — in which Harden went 4-for-18 on three-point attempts — and not Game 4 Harden, where Harden went 7-for-12 from deep, the Jazz have a fighting chance. Utah also has a big size advantage, which Quin Snyder is excellent at ensuring isn’t used against his team. They aren’t going to simply outscore the Rockets — a few more things need to go their way than they do for Houston — but they can definitely create some difficult match-ups and go on runs throughout the game.