Game 2: Utah (0-1) at Houston (1-0)
Wednesday, 9:30 PM ET (TNT)
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Recommended Sportsbook: BetOnline
The Utah Jazz are a very good defensive team, led by the Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert, in the paint. You probably, though, don’t think of the Houston Rockets as one of the NBA’s top defensive teams. James Harden is a one-man tour de force on offense but not good (that’s being kind) on defense. Houston ranked 18th in defensive rating during the season at 110.1 points allowed per 100 possessions. Utah was No. 2 at 105.2.
However, in the Rockets‘ 122-90 Game 1 win over the Jazz, their defense was the story. Utah shot just 39 percent from the field overall and 7-for-27 from deep. Regular-season leading scorer Donovan Mitchell was 8-for-18 for 19 points with five turnovers and not a single assist. After being inactive for the final three games of the regular season (quad bruise), Ricky Rubio started and had 15 points with six assists.
Utah’s bench totaled 50 points in a game 13 times this season and that group ranked second in the NBA in three-pointers made. In Game 1, Jazz reserves totaled just 18 points on 4-for-26 shooting (2-for-13 from deep).
Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Since the All-Star break, Utah had the No. 1 defensive rating in the NBA and the Rockets a surprising No. 2. It was the second-largest playoff loss in Jazz history, only behind the 96-54 loss to the Chicago Bulls during Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals, and also the second-biggest playoff win in Rockets history.
“We’re going to make adjustments,’ Rubio said. “We have one of the best coaches, if not the best coach, at making adjustments.’
Houston got 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds from Harden in the win – Utah tried the interesting strategy of essentially letting Harden drive unencumbered to his right side. The thinking there is to take away Harden’s dominant hand and his step-back jumper. Didn’t work. Clint Capela played through an illness and had 16 points and 12 rebounds. He was a team-best plus-24. Houston had 62 points in the paint. Eric Gordon had 17 points and played good defense on Mitchell.
The Rockets have won 11 straight playoff games when holding opponents to under 100 points. Teams averaged 102.8 ppg over the final 20 games after averaging 111.2 ppg over the first 62 games this regular season. During that stretch, Houston went from outscoring opponents by 4.8 ppg to 12.8 ppg. In addition, the Rockets have won eight straight playoff games when scoring at least 120 points and are 71-5 all-time under Mike D’Antoni when doing so.
- Rockets are 6-0-1 ATS in their last 7 home games.
- Under is 7-1-1 in Rockets last 9 home games.
- Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.