Apparently, that “defense wins championships” guy was onto something.
In a complete 180 from Game 2, the Rockets shut down Utah’s offense and took control of Game 3 from the start. Now, they will have to do the same thing to win Game 4 and head back to Toyota Center with a chance to end the series.
The story after Game 1 and 3 was Donovan Mitchell’s inability to score against Houston’s length. In fact, he was held in check pretty well in Game 2. Other than the 11 assists in that contest Mitchell has been largely a non-factor, and that’s mostly due to Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela. Obviously Houston switches a lot and everyone has had a hand in quieting the rookie sensation, but those two deserve the most credit.
Mitchell has shot 32% from the field in the first three games after shooting 46% against the Thunder. Basically, the Rockets are making him look like a rookie just a little bit outside of his element. For most of that OKC series, he was able to play off Ricky Rubio and attack when needed. Now, he’s being called upon to do everything and as James Harden learned last year, that’s a tough ask for even an MVP, much less a rookie.
However, Houston’s defense didn’t just extend to Mitchell. Joe Ingles was left open far less often and wasn’t able to ignite Utah’s offense. No matter what little adjustments the Rockets make after Game 3, that has to still be part of the game plan. In Game 2, Ingles and the Jazz bench buried the Rockets. In Game 3, Houston dared that same bench to beat them on their own and they couldn’t.
We can expect another wrinkle from Utah’s offense. They have to find ways to get Ingles and their other shooters open. Mitchell needs to get some easy buckets. Houston has to be ready.
It’s time for Houston to get greedy. If they want a real shot at the Warriors, they cannot be tired heading into that series. Grabbing homecourt advantage back isn’t enough, especially with Rubio’s return looming. Stealing Game 3 is what a good team does. Winning Game 4 is what a great team would do.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on TNT