Much has been said about the Jazz’s defensive scheme to stop James Harden. Most have questioned how such an abnormal style could actually work and, even as soon as the first quarter, of the first game of the series were already condemning the scheme before the game was over.
Let me take this moment to remind you that this is a 7-game series.
Last playoffs, when the Jazz took on this same Rockets team, they had a little bit of Harden kryptonite in Dante Exum. Multiple possessions he showed some of the best defense anyone has ever played against Harden. It was a big part of Utah getting their only win in that series.
When Exum wasn’t on the floor, Harden pick and roll’d them to death leading the Rockets to a 4-1 series victory.
Sadly, the Jazz don’t have Exum to throw at Harden this series and as the Jazz defensive scheme fell apart last night, it was Deja Vu.
But, out of that 30-point loss, there’s something to have some hope about if you’re a Jazz fan.
What if you hadn’t seen the game and I told you that the Jazz tried an unorthodox defensive scheme and it led to James Harden scoring 29 points on 26 shots while holding him to just 3 free throws? Chances are you might have been optimistic about the outcome.
The problem was that Utah didn’t do a good job outside of Harden. For example, Eric Gordon was 3/5 from three and PJ Tucker was 3/7. That’s where the adjustment has to happen on the defensive end. Utah also needs to do a better job of getting offensive rebounds against one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league.
On top of that, the defensive scheme for Utah might be hiding the actual problem for Utah which was a team that only took 27 threes compared to 41 for Houston.
Donovan Mitchell, the bright spot in the game and in our hearts, was the only one who had a good shooting night from three going 3/7. The rest of the team? 4/20.
You have to give credit to Houston for a lot of that. Their defensive pressure and ability to switch gave Utah problems just like it did last year in the playoffs. The switching kept Utah from getting the shots they wanted at the rim and from three. Can Utah figure out a way to score?
This may be a harder thing to do than tweak their defense.
Besides a trade for Kyle Korver halfway through the season, Utah is running out the same unit from last season.
That unit has the same issues this year as it did last year. There are a too many times where the Jazz find themselves without enough shooting on the floor. For much of this season, Utah has been able to create create enough offense to win 50 games. In the playoffs those weaknesses become much more pronounced.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are doing their job, it’s the other players on the team that will need to step up if the Jazz want to win.
Jae Crowder shot 1/7 from three, Royce O’neale was 0/2 and Joe Ingles, the Jazz’s best three point shooter only took 3 and hit 1 of them. On top of that Ingles only had 3 points in the game.
This type of production is just not good enough. If the Jazz want a chance to beat Houston, it can’t just be Mitchell and Gobert who play well. Otherwise we’re looking at a very short series.
Whether it’s the defense or the offense, something has to change for the Jazz to break out of this deja vu or this recurring Houston nightmare will continue to haunt them this series.