Down 2-0, a deficit only overcome by 20 teams (out of 282) in NBA history among seven-game series, hope is in short supply. Of course, the Jazz haven’t given up but that doesn’t make the challenge any easier. One does not simply conjure up the ability to defend reigning MVP James Harden and shoot the ball at a more efficient rate.
But stranger things have happened before.
For the first time this series, the Rockets won’t be playing host. They won’t enjoy the benefits of a home crowd. Instead, the Jazz will feature those advantages and, at this point, any advantage Utah can find is sorely needed and desperately welcomed.
Shooting in particular would prove to be a boon for Quin Snyder’s struggling squad. The defense has received its fair share of flak for failing to defend Harden (or anyone for that matter considering Houston is second in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage in the playoffs), but Utah’s offense has arguably been worse.
So far in these playoffs, only two teams have posted an offensive rating worse than Utah’s 93.5 — the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Those are the fifth and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference who are also both missing their top offensive stars. In other words, based on relative talent, the Utah Jazz are the worst offensive team in the playoffs right now.
That means change starts today, tonight, ASAP, now. For the Jazz to have any prayer in a series where they’ve been dominated to the moon and back, something, anything needs to happen where the shooting heats up and the defense tightens up. Donovan Mitchell must go off for a big game. Rudy Gobert needs to bring his A-game on both ends. Everyone down the line for Utah needs to play like the team that won 50 games this season.
A bright side to this series is that if there’s any matchup where blowouts can flip the other way its the Utah-Houston one. In the regular season, only one game was decided by less than six points in a series these two teams split 2-2. Utah won 118-91 and 100-89 with the Rockets winning the two other games 125-98 and 102-97. When these team’s have played, one has simply been better than the other for three hours.
Should the Jazz pull off what the NBA world doesn’t expect and win Game 3 (Vegas has Utah at a -2.5 favorite strangely enough) it won’t mean the series will turn on its heel in Utah’s favor. But it will be a start, a potential start to what Jazz nation is praying will be the 21st time a team breaks through the 2-0 wall.