This isn’t going to be as easy as Oklahoma City. The Houston Rockets, equally as star laden as the Thunder, quickly showed the Utah Jazz what a little discipline mixed with talent can get you by defeating the Jazz 110-96. Behind James Harden’s 20 points at halftime, the Houston Rockets surged to a 64-39 lead over the Utah Jazz. The Rockets weren’t going to show the Jazz any mercy for being down their starting point guard, Ricky Rubio, in the playoffs.
James Harden finished the game with 41 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. It feels more intimidating when Harden finishes with a line like that as opposed to Russell Westbrook. Chris Paul added in 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists. The big matchup of giants between Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert rendered Capela the champion. Rudy Gobert struggled big in the first half while not having a shot attempt. He finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Donovan Mitchell played a stellar game, but the responsibility he’s carrying without Rubio definitely showed. He finished with 21 points on 22 shots and added 5 assists. One thing to keep an eye on is Donovan Mitchell tweaked his ankle in the 4th quarter as Eric Gordon landed on it. Donovan Mitchell would finish the game—adrenaline is a helluva drug—but this will be something to definitely keep an eye on for game 2. There is a chance this could flare up and Mitchell could miss game 2. Ankles are like that sometimes.
The Utah Jazz’s bench led them back into this game—or as close as they could anyway—behind Jae Crowder, Dane Exum, Raul Neto, and Alec Burks’ play. Neto and Burks were the only players to finish in positive +/-. Raul Neto might have given Quin Snyder some ideas. The lineup with Exum and Neto in the backcourt paid some positive results and Neto can stick in front of Chris Paul.
The main takeaway of today’s game is not to overreact. This was a tired Utah squad playing less that 48 hours after an emotional close out at home. They had just lost their starting point guard and were going on the road to the best team in the league. Despite all the things that went wrong—and, trust me, there was a lot that went wrong—Utah only lost by 14 in a game that should have been a 30 point blowout. Utah fought to stay in the game. They won the final two quarters. They started to figure out Houston’s defense and adjust to their offense. Don’t get me wrong, the Utah Jazz are still HEAVY underdogs in this playoff series, but if Utah can hold serve at home until Rubio gets back, this entire series changes. The Utah Jazz don’t have to shock the Rockets in the first two games of this series. They just need to do enough to get two wins before game 5. That’s it. Doesn’t matter if those wins are by a point, if they do that, then this is the series we were promised before Rubio went down with his hamstring injury.
Raul Neto was +8 in 8 minutes while scoring 4 points. Neto is sure to be the beneficiary of some more minutes.
Jonas Jerebko was -10 in only 5 minutes while only registering a rebound. No points. No assists. Not even a field goal. Jerebko continues to be a mystery box when you put him on the floor.
Eric Gordon only scored 7 points while shooting 0-6 from the field. That’s a relief.