It’s looking like the Houston Rockets will face a similar defense tomorrow night from the Utah Jazz that they did in Game 1 of the series. Can they combat it just as well and get the victory?
Going into this series against the Utah Jazz, the Houston Rockets had no idea how James Harden would be defended. One thing was for certain, though: When the Beard catches fire against them, it normally ends poorly.
In the two regular season wins against the Jazz, Harden went off for an average of 45 points a game. In the two losses, however, he was limited to just 22 points a night. That’s obviously a pretty huge differential and something Utah wanted to have in their favor.
As such, they decided not to let Harden alone beat them. They played a defense similar to what Milwaukee did in the regular season, funneling the Beard towards the basket and forcing him to take floaters or pass it out to his teammates on the perimeter. For a little bit, it didn’t look like a bad strategy.
Then we realized that the Jazz don’t quite have the same personnel as the Bucks. P.J. Tucker and others were getting too open of shots. Rudy Gobert could only do so much in the middle with a limited athletic team in this system. Harden went off for 10 assists to go with his 29 points and the Rockets won easily by 32 points.
Jazz sticking with the strategy?
After the game, you had to wonder if Utah would stray away from this style of defense. It got torched all night and the best defensive team since the All-Star Break gave up 122 points.
Ricky Rubio, however, seemed adamant that this was the game plan for the series. Here’s what he had to say after the game:
I asked Ricky Rubio about the “forcing Harden right” scheme, and he told me it’s not just a one game gameplan, it’s a series gameplan. Jazz are going to stick with it, make it as tough as possible for James Harden. #Rockets will keep to their counters; confident on what to do.
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) April 15, 2019
If that’s the case, then we’ll see a similar defense tomorrow night when the Rockets face the Jazz in Game 2. It seems like a very interesting decision to me, but we’ll see if it works out for them.
James Harden has to continue to be aggressive going to the paint. That’s what made him so successful Sunday night. He has to be confident in his floater and be willing to shoot it as many times as it takes.
The role players also have to continue to knock down shots. P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon were awesome at doing just that last game. Danuel House was great in the second half and had some big shots in the fourth quarter. That has to continue all series (all playoffs, really) if the Rockets want to be this successful once again.
Who all is ready for Game 2? It can’t come any sooner!