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Three Takeaways From Houston Rockets Victory Over the Jazz

Jan 4, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talk in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talk in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
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Although this game was a lot closer than most would have expected, the Houston Rockets defeated the Utah Jazz 93-91 to overcome their four game losing streak.

3 Things We Saw

Perimeter Defense 

The Rockets did a great job defending the inside against the Jazz. Houston’s defense held the Jazz to a season low 28 points in the paint. Although the Rockets defended the inside well, it was their perimeter defense that killed them.

In the first half, no one could stop the Jazz from scoring from behind the arc. Utah shot 45 percent (9/20) from downtown. Their hot shooting from the acr kept the Rockets behind most of the game. However, after a few changes in their defensive strategy, Houston was able to cool the Jazz off during the game’s most critical moments.

The Rockets have to upgrade their perimeter defense. Although they won this game, there are not too many scenarios Houston will come out with a victory while their opponents are shooting 42 percent from the acr. The worst part about the Rockets’ perimeter defense, most of the Jazz scoring came from two players.

Gordon Hayward, (the league’s most underrated player) scored nine of his 20 points from downtown, while second year guard Rodney Hood‘s 15 of his 23 points came from behind the arc.

No disrespect to Hayward or Hood, but Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley cannot allow their opponents to combine for 24 points from downtown. Ariza and Beverley are the Rockets biggest defensive specialist on the perimeter. How do the Rockets expect to beat teams like the Spurs and Warriors if they allow teams to have a field day from behind the arc.

Overall, the Rockets cannot allow a team to put on a shooting display from the three anymore. Next time, Houston won’t be so lucky to come out on the winning side.

Two Faced Harden

There were two sides of bearded one fans saw in Utah. Due to the tremendous defense the Jazz played, Harden had a miserable first half. Never seen the Rockets’ MVP play so poorly. Every shot he took banked off the side iron.

Harden is one of the best players in the league, perhaps top three, without a doubt his name is in the top five. However, when his shots are not falling, Harden tends to disengage himself from the game.

If Harden wants to lead the Rockets to a championship, he has to learn how to make an impact on the court in more ways than scoring. In the first half, Harden only scored eight points. Did he ever pick up his defense? No. Did he ever become a play maker for his teammates? He tried to, but had eight turnovers in the process. Which proved he needs a point guard (Ty Lawson) to help him in the back court.

Thankfully the Jazz’s defense collapsed in the second half, which allowed James Harden to go on a scoring rampage. He scored 22 of his 30 points to lead the Rockets in a fourth quarter comeback.

Have to say, loved and respected the way Harden never gave up on his team through adversity. When the Rockets trailed by 15 late in the third, he didn’t run to the bench like in San Antonio. This time, Harden stayed on the court and led his team on a surprising comeback.

The second half, Harden showed great leadership for his team, but he cannot disengage himself when the game isn’t going his way like in the first.

James Harden was cookin' in the second half! Check out his 30p/7a/5r highlights. #NBAVote https://t.co/hAS7s5ueyO

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 5, 2016

Defense of Harrell

Montrezl Harrell with strong defense on the perimeter, then follows that with a fast break layup in traffic. Rockets have the lead back.

— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) January 5, 2016

More from Space City Scoop

Can Someone help Montrezl Harrell get more minutes on the court! When Harden carried the team on his shoulders on the offensive end, Harrell became the defensive anchor on defense.

With 2 points and 2 rebounds, Harrell’s impact on the court went far beyond his stats. Harrell’s defense and energy late in fourth made the biggest difference on the game. Harrell contested every shot both inside and out, and his box out ability kept the Jazz of the boards.

Once JB Bickerstaff took a chance on Harrell late in the third, the Rockets held the Jazz to 16 points and their shooting fell below 50 percent. For 17 minutes Harrell was the second best player on the court for the Rockets.

Hopefully Bickerstaff will find a way to get Harrell into the rotations, because his hustle and defense has been one of the missing piece for Houston all season.

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