Rockets 91, Jazz 107 - Deflation

By Forrest Walker on April 22, 2019

After going up 3-0 for the first time since the 2015 series against the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets immediately coughed up a deflating loss to a quite good Utah Jazz team. With starting center Clint Capela reportedly somehow double sick, this series, which still almost certainly Houston's, has  suddenly become a lot more concerning for the Rockets.

The Rockets were up the to start the fourth quarter. They then scored twelve more points over the next twelve minutes. James Harden and Chris Paul looked good and did what they could, but without Clint Capela's lob threat in full force, the rim was sealed for the Rockets. The Jazz finally looked comfortable in their defense and the game began with Jae Crowder looking like LeBron James.

Now, we look at the prospect of the series heading back to Houston on Wednesday as Clint Capela battles both a viral infection (adenovirus, a common respiratory and eye infection, likely accounting for his unusually red eyes after game three) as well as a bacterial infection (klebsiella, commonly a cause of pneumonia but can infect a variety of sites). He will reportedly need about four days to fully recover. After several minutes doing calculations, I can confidently report that Wednesday's game five sits squarely within that time frame, suggesting that Clint will likely not be 100% at that time.

While this isn't exactly an excuse for giving up a winnable game in Utah and the badly needed rest opportunity that provides, it is good context for why Houston's offense and Clint in particular looked sluggish. While this bodes well for the healthy version of the team, the other edge on that sword is the reality that we won't be seeing the healthy version of the team on Wednesday. Sea-level altitude will likely be better for Capela than trying to breath Utah's mountain air, and sleeping in one's own beds generally results in players looking sharper.

There are plenty of reasons to suspect Houston will close this out, perhaps sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, there are also now a few reasons to suspect that a foregone conclusion has become a bit less foregone. This series is no longer over, and the Rockets now have to go all-out on Wednesday to try to put this round in the rear view mirror as soon as possible. As impressive as the Rockets have looked, the bad next round is due to be significantly higher, and tonight's stumble only moves them a little farther away from the perfection they may need. They're still alive, and still one of the top teams. They just look a little deflated at the moment.

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