We could talk about how James Harden has to be better tonight than he was in Game 4, but that’s been talked about to death by now. It’s time to talk about the defense of the Houston Rockets.
As poorly as Utah’s defensive game plan worked in Games 1 and 2 before showing dividends in Game 3, Houston’s defense has been spectacular in all three games. Houston is holding the Jazz to 96.3 points per game, with a defensive efficiency of exactly the same amount. Basically, Houston is playing great defense whether you’re looking at the box score or the advanced statistics.
Houston’s switching scheme has worked, with Rudy Gobert’s inability to post up smaller players with consistency and Utah’s overall lack of a second shot creator hurting the Jazz. However, the biggest problem for Utah has been their poor shooting from deep. Through three games, the Jazz are shooting 25.5% from deep, which is the worst mark among the 16 playoff teams. The Jazz shot 35.6% during the regular season, which was tenth in the league and the same percentage Houston shot.
If you watch the games, you probably see the Jazz get open look after open look from deep. Admittedly, the Jazz are missing shots that they should make and there’s a chance for a terrifying game where they regress to the mean. Still, the gambit has worked for Houston so far. Only Georges Niang is shooting better than 33% from deep, and the only Jazz player to average over 2 or more makes per game is Donovan Mitchell, who’s taking nine attempts to hit 2.7 triples. Mitchell has hit 8 triples total, and Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale have four each. For reference, five Rockets are shooting better than 33% and three Rockets have hit more threes than Mitchell.
I can’t see that trend continuing. I think the Jazz finally get their win tonight where they hit all their threes, then come back down to Earth in Game 5. But obviously my prediction is that Houston will still lose this series.
Prediction: Jazz fight back and grab Game 4 in front of home fans
Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on TNT