The Houston Rockets made a statement in Game 1 of their first-round series with the Utah Jazz, leading for the majority of the contest and fighting off several Jazz runs before stepping their foot on the gas in the second half for a 122-90 win.
James Harden led the way for the Rockets with 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists, and he controlled the game with his passing, despite Utah’s efforts to move him to his right. Harden constantly found the open man or got to the bucket, and Utah’s going to need to re-assess how they guard him moving forward.
Make no mistake, however, this was definitely a total team effort. Houston made a major run with Harden on the bench to start the fourth to take total control of the game, with Chris Paul leading the charge with the second unit. CP3 finished with 14 points and 7 assists while shooting 7-12 from the field. He went 0-3 from deep, which means he was 7-10 from inside and mid-range, and when Paul is bringing that added dimension to the Houston offense, the Rockets are tough to beat.
Clint Capela also had a great game, finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He helped lead the charge on the backboards, with Houston surprisingly winning that battle 42-41. If you remember, rebounding was one of the Utah strengths Coty called out in his piece, and the Rockets were able to not just compete on the boards, but win them.
The Rockets also dominated points in the paint, outscoring Utah there 62-42 behind Harden and Eric Gordon’s drives, CP3’s short jumpers, and Capela’s thunderous dunks, which was another surprise for a team going against both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors underneath.
Speaking of Gordon, EG showed up big time, finishing with 17 points. He was 3-5 from deep, which always kicks Houston’s offense up a notch, and the Rockets also got double-digit points from P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, and Kenneth Faried, who all finished with 11 apiece.
House and Tucker, in particular, both started off slow with their shooting, missing several wide open threes early before turning it around as the game went on, hitting three triples apiece. Overall, the Rockets shot 15-41 from beyond the arc.
House also played some great defense tonight, and Austin Rivers, despite scoring just 4 points, also made his mark defensively, helping to hold Donovan Mitchell to just 19 points on 7-18 shooting.
Overall, Houston held Utah to just 39 percent from the field, while shooting 50 percent themselves, to further illustrate the final domination.
The Rockets did show a few minor glimpses of some of the lapses we’ve seen from them this season, allowing the Jazz to claw back within 5 points in the third quarter after leading by 15 at the break, but Utah never really seriously threatened.
In addition to Mitchell, the Jazz also got 22 points and 12 boards from Rudy Gobert, 15 points and 6 assists from Ricky Rubio, who started off hot but cooled considerably later. He was also roasted turkey against James Harden, and I’d love nothing more than to see more of that strategy by the Jazz in Game 2. Derrick Favors also had 13 points and 6 rebounds for Utah.
The series is now off until Wednesday, when the two teams return to the Toyota Center for Game 2 at 8:30pm CST.