It’s hard to complain about a 32-point win. In fact, the Houston Rockets looked incredible in their 122-90 win against the Utah Jazz in Game 1 on Sunday. They did very little wrong.
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to clean up to look even more dominant in Game 2.
Harden executing the floater
The floater wasn’t going for Harden on Sunday. To my count, he went 1-7 on any floater/runner variation. It might be a difficult shot, but it’s one that Harden has perfected over the season, arguably becoming his second best move after the step-back. It’s also one that the Jazz are giving him. Given Utah’s defensive scheme, that runner that Harden has been knocking down all season is there for him any time he wants it, so he has to take advantage (more on that in a bit).
The upside is that the floater might be Harden’s most efficient shot. It’s not one that he misses often, and regularly makes difficult ones. The downside (possibly another upside?) is that Harden was fouled on at least three of those missed attempts, and he’s not getting the call. He’s getting bumped in his torso during his release or right after. It’s most likely something that’ll be called more closely next game.
Take advantage of Utah’s defensive scheme
Guys, sincerely. Please continue the strategy of willingly getting behind Harden at halfcourt. I really think you’re on to something. pic.twitter.com/ip1xolgOVz— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) April 15, 2019
You might have seen our Tweet blow up just a bit - no big deal.
On defense, Utah is guarding Harden by some variation of shading/taking away his left hand and/or the step-back. This approach has been proven somewhat effective against Harden in the past, but in this scenario the main culprits executing this are Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles. And the Jazz are also not doing a great job of covering the shooters on the wing. Harden did well all last game in getting his floater off and finding open shooters, but making the shots were sometimes an issue.
If the shots start dropping for Houston here, Utah is in big(ger) trouble.
Derrick Favors and the Rockets second unit
Derrick Favors might have had only 13 points in his 24 minutes, but he presented a problem for the Rockets bench. For one, he was the only Jazz player to turn in a positive plus/minus (+1). Two, he had little-to-no friction getting easy shots at the rim, especially when guarded by Kenneth Faried. Favors easily lost Faried or got his switch on his screens and handoffs. Mostly all his baskets were in-stride and at the rim for an easy two.
If the Rockets want to tie up all their loose ends, stopping Favors is a good place to start.
What was most impressive about the Rockets’ win was that they were just 15-41 from the three-point line, with only 10 made threes going into the fourth. P.J. Tucker, Harden, and Eric Gordon shot solid combined 10-of-23 from behind the arc. However, Chris Paul, Danuel House Jr., and Gerald green were 4-of-16 from three. The good news is that Houston had a ton of good looks, especially House, they just had trouble knocking down wide open shots. With Houston dominating the game in the paint last night, 62 points to 42, and making 8 more threes than Utah, becoming more efficient from beyond the arc would make them all but unstoppable.
Hopefully Houston can tighten up all their mistakes next game and not break a sweat for the rest of the series.