The Houston Rockets proved once again that they’re an elite team on defense, as Donovan Mitchell and Utah’s offense struggled from start to finish.
The Houston Rockets really turned the corner over the last third of the season. They won 20 of their last 25 games of the regular season and they have carried their stellar play into the postseason.
Houston’s defense suffocated the Jazz in Game 1 of the 1st round of the playoffs and Game 2 was more of the same. The Rockets scored the first five points of the game and quickly built a 27-9 lead over Utah just past the midway point of the opening quarter.
The Rockets more than doubled the Jazz’s score at the end of the first, carrying a 39-19 lead into the second. Utah’s offense picked up just a bit in the second quarter, but the Rockets kept their foot on the pedal all the way through the first half, carrying a 70-44 lead into the break.
The Rockets maintained their lead throughout the third quarter, and despite some sloppy play in the fourth, easily closed out the game as both teams emptied their bench with a little over three minutes remaining. The final score read 118-98, but the Rockets pretty much had this game in the bag by halftime.
James Harden led the Rockets in every major statistical category, finishing with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The Beard dished out his 10th assist with 3:30 left in the fourth, when he threw an outlet pass to Kenneth Faried for an easy tomahawk dunk. Chris Paul added 17 points and 2 steals and both Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker finished with 16 points a piece.
The Rockets were red-hot on offense, making 25 of their 30 free throws and 17 of their 42 3-pointers. They also held Utah under 100 points for the second consecutive game.
Donovan Mitchell has struggled to get anything going in this series. The second year guard has averaged just 15 points and has shot just 12-for-37 from the field in the series. He has also committed 9 turnovers in two games in Houston, but has only dished out 6 total assists. If Mitchell doesn’t contribute more offensively in Utah, it’s hard to see how the Jazz will avoid a sweep.