Rockets 113, Jazz 92 - Intensity

By Forrest Walker on May 4, 2018

The Houston Rockets were in no mood to lose two games in a row. After a lackadaisical first half in game 2, the Rockets came out with a higher level of intensity, and as a consequence, a higher level of defense. The Utah Jazz fell behind early and even at their home altitude, the Jazz were the ones who couldn't catch their breath. In one of the most lopsided affairs of this season's playoffs, The Rockets ran the Jazz right out of their own gym on the way to asserting their dominance in this series.

The good, great, exultant news from this game is that the Jazz were utterly incapable of getting their offense running whatsoever. Their adjustments in game 2 saw Joe Ingles in particular come open for three point look after three point look. Tonight he was a mere 2-7 from three point range. Donovan Mitchell was no longer the architect of Houston's demise, sputtering to a 4-16 shooting night for only 10 points.

Clint Capela was the key to this defensive outing, swatting 4 shots and altering myriad attempts at the rim. He was a man apart in this game, dominating his matchup, Rudy Gobert, in much the same way he took Karl-Anthony Towns to task last series. He ended the night with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals. This was not his most gaudy box score night, but it was one of his best games in his entire career. He's likely to sign a max contract in a few weeks, and he's earned every penny.

James Harden, of course, remained their anchor. He scored 25 points, tied for game-high with Eric Gordon, and added a ridiculous 12 assists to boot. He was running the offense effortlessly, putting players in position to finish around the rim over and over again. Eric Gordon, for his part, seemed to find his stroke again, shooting 8-13 overall and a scorching 4-8 from deep. There's no telling what Gordon will look like in the next game, but the hope is that this will bolster his confidence and help him get back to the player the Rockets need him to be.

And they need him to be great. The bad news is that even in this massive win, there was one very ugly number. Despite going up by as much as 38 points, the Rockets failed to hit a third of their three point attempts, ending the night at a 30.6% clip. They hit a mere 11-36 of their attempts, something which is merely a blip on its own but which has become part of an ongoing trend. While it's good that they continue to hoist 30-40 threes a night, they won't be able to survive with less than a point per shot against their likely opponent, should they hang on and win this series.

There is reason to hope this is simply a continued anomaly, however. The big culprits tonight were Harden and Chris Paul, who shot a combined 3-15 from downtown, while the rest of the team as a whole was decent. It seems like the stars and the role players decide before each game which of them will go off, but they should consider just all hitting at the same time. Whatever the cause, and whatever the outcome, it's a good idea to watch this stat for the rest of the series, and get ready for what may come next.

One thing we do know comes next, however, is another game in Utah on Sunday night. The Rockets have a chance to win both games in Utah and take a 3-1 lead back to Houston. In any event, they've taken back their home court advantage, though they hardly seem to play any worse on the road. They found their intensity and their defense, and the worst thing about it is that they probably can't win any bigger than they did tonight.

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