The Utah Jazz will return to the Toyota Center in Houston looking to split the series in Houston. In the first game of this series, Houston took advantage of a Utah team that was playing for the second time in less than 38 hours. The adjustment required for Houston which boasts the best offense in the league was readily apparent in the first half of the Jazz’s 110-96 loss to the Rockets. The Utah Jazz were only able to muster 39 points in the first half while the Houston Rockets ran up the scoreboard with 64 points against what is supposed to be the NBA’s best defense anchored by Rudy Gobert.
James Harden was a beast in Game 1, amassing 20 points in just the first half alone. What’s Utah’s adjustment for stopping Harden? Quin Snyder had an idea, “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.” Kidding aside, Utah’s probably not going to slow the soon to be MVP. He did after all average 30 points a game and 34 points per game against Utah in the regular season. Utah’s game plan most likely is found in what they discovered in the second half of the game.
In the second half of the game, Utah toyed around with lineups in order to find a stopgap solution for Ricky Rubio being out for the first four games of the series. In that time, they found that Raul Neto could be a serviceable replacement for Rubio without giving Houston an advantage on the offensive end. Neto was unable to see the court in the Oklahoma City series due to the matchup disadvantage with Russell Westbrook, but with Houston’s Chris Paul, Raul Neto can matchup better.
Utah also got their defensive footing in the second half winning the final two quarters and only holding Houston to a defensive rating of 88.4. Their defensive and offensive rebounding percentage increased, shooting improved, and their pace increased. In other words they settled down. If you’re wondering if this sounds familiar, Utah did this same thing against Oklahoma City. Game 1 it didn’t look like Utah belonged in the same building as the Thunder. Then in the second half they started to settle in. They found their looks. Yes they lost the game but they figured out what worked. Those paid big dividends in the second game in which Utah upset the Thunder at home.
The Utah Jazz are going to need everything they can get from Donovan Mitchell who had a frightening ankle scare in Game 1. The good news is he’s all good to go. He has practiced as normal and will be ready for Game 2. The rookie phenom has had 20+ points or more in his first 7 playoff games as a rookie. Last person to do that? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Not too shabby.
When: 6:00MT • Wednesday May 2nd, 2018
Where: Toyota Center · Houston, Texas
TV: TNT, TNTOT, AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone,
Thabo Sefolosha - Knee - Out for season
Ricky Rubio - Hamstring - Out for 10 days
Nobody. Must be nice.
What to watch for
Utah’s bounce back game
Utah has only lost two games in a row once since January 22. That instance? Against Portland in the last game of the season and then against Oklahoma City in the first game in the playoffs. Since one was regular season and the other postseason, we’re not going to count it. Utah adjusts to new circumstances really quick. They’re a team filled with film junkies. (Speaking of film junkies, you have to check out Kobe’s in depth film study with Donovan Mitchell. Must watch.) Donovan Mitchell has been like an artificial intelligence. He might mess up once, but he learns, adjusts, and makes the opponent pay the next go around.
Utah looked like they were going to be in an uphill battle in their first game against Oklahoma City, but then they made their adjustments and took the series in 6. More importantly, they split the series in Oklahoma City. So what will happen in Game 2? We can bet that Utah has given up trying to stop Harden and their game plan will revolve around stopping Houston’s role players. If they can do that and make sure their defense is ready this time around ... things will change dramatically. Plus, Utah’s not going to miss that many wide open threes every game. The last game wasn’t so much of a blowout as an experiment for Quin Snyder.
Donovan Mitchell vs Houston: Part Deux
Kobe Bryant, in his show Detail, went into depth about how Houston disrupted Donovan Mitchell to start the game. They forced Donovan into taking the ball above the break and far beyond the three point line away from the action. It allowed Houston to get back into their defensive sets and never veer far off from their home base. When Donovan did get the ball from an off ball screen or action near the three point line or just below it, Houston’s defense whipped harder than Will Smith’s daughter’s hair. They instantly collapsed, were forced to rotate, and allowed Utah to get a better look.
Another thing the Mamba pointed out was how Donovan wasn’t exerting enough energy before getting the ball. By allowing space between him and his defender before receiving the ball, Donovan was allowing his defender to sneak through screens and save energy. Donovan also wasn’t able to jump off the defender forcing them to adjust. Trevor Ariza, always the crafty veteran and defender, took advantage of this and then used his physicality around the screens to slow Donovan down.
Donovan Mitchell shouldn’t be expected to read, react, and then take advantage of all these nuances and THEN some as a rookie. But if Utah is going to win in this series or at least push this series long enough for Rubio to return, he has to. Donovan Mitchell will have to play like a five year pro as a rookie against the best team in the NBA on the road down their starting point guard for Utah to get the W.
Most likely Utah Jazz Killer: Three point shooting
We’re going to shake it up. Utah has struggled for some reason when they get tons of open looks. Don’t know if it’s the pressure or just finding themselves wide open. Utah got plenty of good open looks from beyond the arc, but couldn’t connect on them. If Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale, and even Derrick Favors catch fire from beyond the arc, Houston is going to have a problem.