Utah's Lack of Offense Makes Houston Right Choice in Game 2

rockets jazz

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 3:36 PM UTC

Tuesday, May. 1, 2018 3:36 PM UTC

Houston built a 25-point halftime lead over Utah in the first game of their Western Conference semifinal series and coasted to victory. Will Game 2 be any different Wednesday night (8 ET) on TNT?

Game 2: Utah (0-3 ATS as DD Dogs) at Houston (11-16 ATS as DD Faves)Free NBA Pick: RocketsBest Line Offered: JustBet

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Normally, betting double-digit NBA favorites requires sitting through 2 1/2 hours of trying to bring a winner home like you are watching a Kentucky Derby favorite. Or, you bet it, go on with your life but check the score on your phone hoping you made the right decision.

The opening game between Utah and Houston was about as comfortable as it gets for making NBA picks. The Rockets led by 13 after the first quarter as 11.5-point favorites, by 25 at halftime, and while they were a few anxious moments at the end in junk time Houston covering was never really in doubt.

Sportsbooks are convinced their NBA odds are correct to having Houston again at -11.5, though the total has dipped from 206 to 204.5 as we went to post. Do the Jazz have any shot to cover Wednesday in Game 2? Do the Rockets have anything to fear?

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Utah Has to Guard 3-Point Line

After James Harden hung 41 points on Utah in the series opener, head coach Quin Snyder was asked what thoughts he had for his team to defend "the Beard" different. "You ask him to miss. You say, ‘Please, James, will you miss this time down the court,' and you hope he's magnanimous about it."

While this sarcastic response drew laughter, Snyder knows his team has to not let Harden and Chris Paul have the ball in their hands and dribbling it in a yo-yo fashion. This is where they do their damage, either scoring themselves or finding opener shooters who make three-pointers.

As we pointed out in our Game 1 preview, there was already a disparity of four three-pointers per game made; thus, the Jazz had to really defend at the arc. They did not. Houston made 17 three-balls, Utah just seven, for a whopping 30-point differential. Unless Utah can close this gap to two or three, they cannot win and probably not cover.

Houston Will Try to Defend Tougher

All coaches preach about one game at a time, blah, blah, blah. For Mike D'Antoni of Houston and his staff, they have to be concerned with Utah, but to think Golden State is not somewhere in his thought process is absurd.

D'Antoni fully understands his team permitting 100 PPG in their last three blowout wins is excellent, particularly after being torched for 121 in Game 3 against Minnesota in that series. But what worries the head coach is in their last four contests opponents have connected on 49.2 percent of attempts. This is why defensive focus matters the rest of this series for Houston, having the proper mindset.

What to Expect?

Utah had no juice in series lid-lifter and definitely missed Ricky Rubio, who remains out (hamstring). Look for a great deal more effort from the Jazz, who could also use more backcourt scoring.

Here is the issue for Utah: They have not cracked the century mark in their last three contests and in five games against Houston, they are averaging 98.2 PPG.

Backing double-digit favorites in the playoffs borders on insanity, or at the very least poor judgment. Nonetheless, taking Utah feels like a "hope bet." It seems smarter to take a team like the Rockets off two consecutive home wins by 10 points or more which is winning 75% or more of their games on the season knowing this situation is 33-14 ATS the past five years.

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