NBA Basketball

Riding defense, Rockets look for 3-0 lead at Jazz

(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

Potent offense isn't Houston's only formula for success. The Rockets have taken a 2-0 series lead over Utah by clamping down on the defensive end.

Going into Game 3 against the Jazz on Saturday, Houston has done everything it has needed to do defensively to take control of this first-round series. The Rockets have allowed Utah to score just 94.0 points per game and shoot 39.4 percent from the field in the two losses. The Jazz are just 15-for-65 from 3-point range in that two-game stretch.

"Our swag and our confidence is where it needs to be," Rockets guard James Harden said. "We just need to bring that to the road. We all know how tough it is to win at Utah, but we did it last year. We're focused and we're on a level defensively to where we're engaged."

No one has been more locked in for the Rockets than Harden himself. The reigning MVP is averaging 30.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.0 assists in the series so far. He earned his third career postseason triple-double in Game 2 after tallying 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

During the regular season, Harden averaged 33.5 points on 46.6 percent shooting against the Jazz. It dipped to 22.0 points on 42.9 percent shooting in two losses to Utah. The potential for stopping him is there, but the Jazz haven't figured out the right formula.

"It is hard, but I'm not going to quit," Utah guard Ricky Rubio said. "We're not going to quit. We're going to keep playing, giving him different looks."

Utah tried to limit Harden from driving into the paint in both games. He simply responded by hanging back on the perimeter and draining a flurry of outside baskets or kicking to open teammates inside and outside.

"When he gets rolling, nobody is better," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said.

The challenge for the Jazz is to get rolling in a similar fashion. Utah hasn't been able to get things clicking on offense consistently in either game. In addition to their shooting woes, the Jazz have struggled with turnovers, totaling 30 over two games against the Rockets.

Things came to head in Game 2, where the Jazz fell behind by 20 points in the first quarter after committing several turnovers and having a flurry of missed shots.

"We weren't strong enough with the ball," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "We have to play with more force offensively to get where we want to go."

Some struggles on offense for the Jazz start with the defensive pressure placed on Donovan Mitchell. Houston has kept Mitchell from making plays during critical junctures. He is shooting only 32.4 percent from the floor in the series -- including 4-of-15 from 3-point range. Mitchell is averaging just 15.0 points over two games against the Rockets.

Utah hasn't been able to deflect attention from Mitchell because the team's outside shooters are struggling to find a rhythm. The Jazz aren't in panic mode going into Game 3, though, because they are getting the looks they want.

"We've just got to keep taking our shots," forward Derrick Favors said. "Those are the shots that we normally make."

Houston beat Utah twice in Salt Lake City in the Western Conference semifinals a year ago. The Jazz averaged just 89.5 points per game in those contests.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 20, 2019

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2019 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

Teams Score Time
NCAA FB
Appalachian State   Sat 3:30pm
North Carolina  
Ball State   Sat 7:00pm
NC State  
NFL
Carolina   Sun 4:05pm
Arizona  
NHL
Tampa Bay 0 F
Carolina 2
Teams Score Time
Air Force   Fri 9:00pm
Boise State  
Utah   Fri 9:00pm
USC  
Boston College   Sat 12:00pm
Rutgers  
California   Sat 12:00pm
Ole Miss  
Elon   Sat 12:00pm
Wake Forest  
LSU   Sat 12:00pm
Vanderbilt  
Michigan   Sat 12:00pm
Wisconsin  
Southern Mississippi   Sat 12:00pm
Alabama  
Tennessee   Sat 12:00pm
Florida  
Western Michigan   Sat 12:00pm
Syracuse  
Appalachian State   Sat 3:30pm
North Carolina  
Auburn   Sat 3:30pm
Texas A&M  
Louisville   Sat 3:30pm
Florida State  
Miami (OH)   Sat 3:30pm
Ohio State  
SMU   Sat 3:30pm
TCU  
UCF   Sat 3:30pm
Pittsburgh  
Washington   Sat 3:30pm
BYU  
Central Michigan   Sat 4:00pm
Miami  
Ball State   Sat 7:00pm
NC State  
Old Dominion   Sat 7:00pm
Virginia  
Oregon   Sat 7:00pm
Stanford  
Charlotte   Sat 7:30pm
Clemson  
Oklahoma State   Sat 7:30pm
Texas  
Notre Dame   Sat 8:00pm
Georgia  
Colorado   Sat 10:00pm
Arizona State  
UCLA   Sat 10:30pm
Washington State  
Teams Score Time
Interleague
Seattle 4 F
Pittsburgh 1
San Francisco 11 F
Boston 3
Tampa Bay 8 F
Los Angeles 7
Seattle   12:35pm
Pittsburgh  
San Francisco   1:05pm
Boston  
American League
Kansas City 0 F
Oakland 1
Los Angeles 3 F
New York 2
Toronto 11 F
Baltimore 10
Detroit 1 F
Cleveland 2
Chicago 3 F
Minnesota 1
Texas 2 F
Houston 3
Los Angeles   6:35pm
New York  
Toronto   7:05pm
Baltimore  
Detroit   7:15pm
Cleveland  
Kansas City   7:40pm
Minnesota  
National League
Washington 1 F
St. Louis 5
New York 7 F
Colorado 4
Miami 4 F
Arizona 5
Philadelphia 4 F
Atlanta 1
San Diego 2 F
Milwaukee 1
Cincinnati 3 F
Chicago 2
Philadelphia   12:10pm
Atlanta  
San Diego   4:10pm
Milwaukee  
St. Louis   7:15pm
Chicago  
Teams Score Time
Tennessee   8:20pm
Jacksonville  
Atlanta   Sun 1:00pm
Indianapolis  
Baltimore   Sun 1:00pm
Kansas City  
Cincinnati   Sun 1:00pm
Buffalo  
Denver   Sun 1:00pm
Green Bay  
Detroit   Sun 1:00pm
Philadelphia  
Miami   Sun 1:00pm
Dallas  
New York   Sun 1:00pm
New England  
Oakland   Sun 1:00pm
Minnesota  
Carolina   Sun 4:05pm
Arizona  
New York   Sun 4:05pm
Tampa Bay  
Houston   Sun 4:25pm
Los Angeles  
New Orleans   Sun 4:25pm
Seattle  
Pittsburgh   Sun 4:25pm
San Francisco  
Los Angeles   Sun 8:20pm
Cleveland  
Teams Score Time
Florida 3 F
Montreal 4
New Jersey 4 F
New York 3
St. Louis 2 F
Washington 3
Tampa Bay 0 F
Carolina 2
Toronto 3 F
Ottawa 4
Minnesota 1 F
Winnipeg 4
Detroit 1 F
Chicago 2
San Jose 4 F
Calgary 6
Boston   7:00pm
Philadelphia  
Columbus   7:00pm
Pittsburgh  
Florida   7:00pm
Montreal  
Dallas   9:00pm
Colorado  
Vancouver   9:00pm
Edmonton  
Vegas   10:30pm
Los Angeles  
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES AT LAS VEGAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 19 Martin Truex Jr 24
2 4 Kevin Harvick 3
3 2 Brad Keselowski 18
4 9 Chase Elliott 8
5 12 Ryan Blaney 23
6 88 Alex Bowman 19
7 24 William Byron 14
8 42 Kyle Larson 15
9 22 Joey Logano 22
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES AT LAS VEGAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 2 Tyler Reddick 4
2 20 Christopher Bell 2
3 19 Brandon Jones 6
4 00 Cole Custer 1
5 7 Justin Allgaier 3
6 9 Noah Gragson 36
7 08 Gray Gaulding 16
8 23 John Hunter Nemechek 13
9 18 Riley Herbst 15
NASCAR GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES AT LAS VEGAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 16 Austin Hill 7
2 45 Ross Chastain 2
3 51 Christian Eckes 1
4 2 Sheldon Creed 6
5 4 Todd Gilliland 3
6 30 Brennan Poole 18
7 24 Brett Moffitt 4
8 99 Ben Rhodes 13
9 18 Harrison Burton 9