Harden: Rockets 'lackadaisical' in game two loss
Houston Rockets star James Harden felt a lack of intensity was to blame for their game two loss to the Utah Jazz.
James Harden bemoaned a lackadaisical performance by the Houston Rockets after the Utah Jazz squared their second-round playoff series on Wednesday.
Having eased to a 110-96 victory in game one, the Rockets were undone by an excellent shooting performance from the Jazz in game two at the Toyota Center.
Though Harden went for 32 points for the Rockets, Utah shot 51.8 per cent from the field and 46.9 per cent from three-point range.
Joe Ingles converted seven of his nine three-point attempts while Rudy Gobert (15 points, 14 rebounds) and star rookie Donovan Mitchell (17 points, 11 assists) each tallied double-doubles.
The series now moves to Utah, where the fifth-seeded Jazz will hope to move towards a stunning upset of the top-seeded Rockets after claiming three of their four victories in the previous series with the Oklahoma City Thunder on their home court.
For Harden, seen as the favourite to win the MVP award, rediscovering their intensity will be key to avoiding the same fate as the Thunder.
"They came out with some thrust in that first half," Harden said. "They made shots, but they were wide-open shots. We came out a little too lackadaisical.
"We were just kind of going through the motions and whatnot. The end of the second quarter and third quarter we picked it up, but it's a pretty good team out there.
"If you give any team, especially in the postseason, that kind of confidence, it's pretty tough."
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni concurred with Harden's assessment, adding: "We can correct our energy and we can correct the necessary focus that we need to have.
"You get lulled into sleep. You think this stuff's easy. It's not easy. This is the NBA. This is the [conference] semi-finals. We kind of got lulled into it, and we paid for it."
The Rockets led in the fourth quarter having erased a 19-point lead built by the Jazz in the second, and Utah coach Quin Snyder was impressed with the way his side kept their composure after letting that advantage slip.
"You know that they're going to come back, it's just a question of how far and how quickly, and I thought when they cut that gap, they not only made it a game but basically took control," Snyder said. "I think we could feel that.
"But at that point for our guys, to keep their focus on what we're trying to do says a lot about the team and how they function together that they didn't break at that point."