Game three of the Western Conference 1st round playoff series between the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz will be played Saturday in Utah. The Rockets currently hold a 2-0 series lead and look to take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series. On Wednesday night, the Rockets blew out the Jazz for the second time in the series 118-98 which was slightly less dominant than Sunday’s 122-90 victory over the Jazz.
The Jazz keep finding themselves down by double digits after the first half in the games played in the series so far. Also, the Jazz’s first-half scoring has been just 44 points in both games while the Rockets have scored 59 and 70 points in the first 24 minutes of both games played so far.
In Game 2, James Harden was his usual brilliant self. He scored 32 points and completed his triple-double with 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Chris Paul had 17 points while P.J Tucker and Eric Gordon contributed 16 points to the Rockets' cause. The Jazz, in turn, got 17 points from point guard Ricky Rubio, 14 from Derrick Favors, and 11 apiece from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Royce O’Neale scored 17 off of the Utah bench.
Houston Rockets Starters:
Head coach Mike D’Antoni is likely to start Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Chris Paul, and James Harden.
Utah Jazz Starters:
The Jazz will start Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Ricky Rubio, and Donovan Mitchell.
Expectations, Why and Prediction:
The Utah Jazz need to score more and early. In combination, their total scoring in the first half of the first two games of this series totals 88 points to the Rockets' 129 points. The Jazz cannot win playing from behind all the time. Two factors against them are the fact that they were second worst in the association when it comes to field goals attempted and were 19th in field goals made. They do not play at a fast pace and don’t generate enough scoring opportunities.
What also compounds the lack of offense generated is that Utah have committed 30 turnovers so far in the series. These errors rob the team of scoring chances.
The Jazz are also having a tough time from the 3-point line so far in this series. They are 15/65 for 23.5% so far.
The Jazz also need better performances from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The latter is a combined 12/37 from the field for a shooting percentage of 32.4% in the series. Gobert, who had 22 points in Game one and just 11 in Game 2, only took 6 shots in Game two. He has to be more involved offensively for Utah to have a chance.
For the Rockets so far, James Harden has not disappointed. He has 61 points over the first two games of the series and has distributed 20 assists. The Houston offense is heavily dependent on the ball being in his hands and the decisions he makes. He will need to watch the turnovers as he has amassed 11 so far in the series.
An interesting battle to watch for the remainder of this series is the battle at the center position. Capela and Gobert are two of the better rebounding and defensive big men currently in the game. Clint Capela has grabbed 22 rebounds with five being offensive. He has also contributed a total of 23 points and 4 blocked shots through 2 games. His Utah counterpart, Rudy Gobert has scored a total of 33 points, recorded 24 rebounds, with 11 offensive boards, and 1 block.
With this series now in Utah, the Jazz need to dig deep and find their best game. At home, they have a chance to get back into this series. They were 29-12 during the regular season playing in Utah.
With that said, the Jazz team must get efficient shooting performances from beyond the three-point line, from Donovan Mitchell overall, and Rudy Gobert must be more involved offensively in Game three. The Jazz must also start games stronger.
The Houston Rockets will like take a 3-0 series lead by winning Game 3 by a 10-point margin.