As the Rockets’ first round series shifts back to Houston, so too does the pressure.
The good guys are still in the driver’s seat, up 3-1 with three cracks at a deciding fourth win. However, Games 3 and 4 showed that the series might be tilting in favor of the Jazz, which could spell doom for the Rockets if they cannot close out the series before Game 7.
The last thing Houston wants to do is be on the wrong side of history as the first team to ever blow a 3-0 lead in the NBA playoffs. That pressure, in addition to Utah’s ability to play with freedom following their relief-filled win in Game 4 is a scary recipe for disaster.
Legacies aren’t on the line yet, but if Utah wins this game, you can almost book a Game 7 back in Houston since the Salt Lake City crowd will be back to Game 3 levels of vitriol and will probably take it a step further.
Tonight, Houston needs to clamp down on defense and get something, anything, from Clint Capela and the bench. Houston got solid contributions from James Harden, Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon. However, that was about the extent of it. Danuel House Jr. is destroying his contract leverage for this summer. If he can’t hit open threes and he can’t defend anyone, he’s not much use to the Rockets or any team that has visions of playoff success. As for Capela, the Swiss big man is dealing with multiple infections and that can’t be fun. He’s getting undercut on lob attempts now and Houston’s best lineup in Game 4 was the Tuckwagon lineup. That group can handle 5 minutes at a time, but it cannot survive for huge stretches like it was asked to do in Game 4.
The Rockets will also have to hope that the Jazz don’t get the Jae Crowder and Ricky Rubio performances again like they got in Game 4. Houston will need to focus on trying to get out to a big early lead to take Utah’s belief away in the first half.
If you are in Houston and trying to get downtown, just know that you’ll have some traffic issues. Well, more than normal. Downtown Houston will be hosting a Rockets game, an Astros game, and a Bernie Sanders rally. I wouldn’t normally bring up a political event since this is a Rockets blog, but it’s relevant to Houston and the already usually late crowd at Toyota Center.
Prediction: Utah rides wave of momentum from Game 4, and this thing is definitely going the distance
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on TNT