Game one of the 2019 playoff matchup between the Rockets and Jazz was basically an extension of the 2018 series in the Western Conference semi-finals last year.
The Jazz hung with the Rockets for the first 8 minutes or so, before the Jazz went cold and Houston opened up a 10-point lead with about just under two minutes remaining in the quarter. James Harden scored 12 in the first quarter and made some incredibly tough shots driving at Rudy Gobert, and the combination of missed shots and turnovers was enough to put the game in Houston’s control from the opening quarter.
The Jazz hung around close enough to make a comeback for much of the second quarter and opening of the third, but ultimately the wheels came off the wagon in the fourth. It wasn’t much of a fight at all, which was quite a big disappointment.
The Rockets were pretty much doing whatever they wanted all night, getting to wherever they were trying to get to on the floor. The Jazz’s strategy of laying off Harden and forcing him right, ending up being “right” down the lane dishing to a wide open corner three or layup/dunk at the rim. Things were just way too easy for the Rockets tonight, and it shows in virtually every facet of the box score.
Donovan Mitchell played his first game in his signature D.O.N Issue #1, and didn’t have his best game, but not a terrible one either. He finished with 19 points on 7-18 shooting (3-7 from three), coupled with 5 rebounds. Mitchell’s worst state of the night? 0 assists. This only happened twice during the regular season, which both ended up in losses. The Rockets negated Mitchell’s playmaking ability for the entirety of the night, as well as other Jazz players not making shots when receiving passes from Mitchell. Things just looked awkward and kind of forced for Spida all night long, which is mostly due to great defense played by the Rockets. Ricky Rubio had a solid night and kept the Jazz afloat offensively for the first 3.5 quarters with the game still within reach. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors combined for 35 points and 18 rebounds, but the Jazz were still outscored heavily in the paint and out-rebounded as a team.
The Jazz received close to nothing from Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale, Kyle Korver, Raul Neto, and Thabo Sefolosha. Unless Donovan Mitchell is going off for 40+, the Jazz are not going to win games without contributions from at least half of those players. They looked a bit shook and rattled, which is a bit surprising considering they were all there last year.
Quin Snyder will have his hands full trying to make the necessary adjustments to make this a series. From everything we saw in game one, the Jazz are just not equipped personnel-wise to get out of the first round this year considering this matchup with the Houston Rockets. But, that’s exactly what it is, game one. Things can turn around in a hurry. There is a still a lot of series to be played. Jazz started out down 0-1 last year in the first round, and we know how that ended. But the Jazz will have to play much better, from pretty much top to bottom in the organization to turn this series around and win some games.