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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Houston Rockets leave no doubt they are a different team in 2018

David Locke

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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN
Summary: Rockets show all the ways they have improved from a year ago in taking control of the series in a 100-87 win over the Utah Jazz.

• To beat the Houston Rockets the script was written, you limit the three-point shots, you quiet Eric Gordon off the bench, you take away the fast break opportunities and you force them away from the rim and into a bad shooting night from three point range.

• The only problem is that script is evidentially so 2017.

• The Jazz held the Rockets to 2 fast break points. In 10 of their 17 losses they had less than 10 fast break points. The Jazz held the Rockets to 38 three point attempts or 43% of their shots. In the first half they had only taken 16 of 46 shots from the three-point range.

• Eric Gordon was just 3 of 10 off the bench and the Rockets went 4 of 24 on above the break three points shots. Furthermore, the Rockets only took 20 shots in the restricted area.

• The Rockets only had 5 games all season with fewer shots at the rim. The 4 above the break threes equaled their season low above the break 3 point shots made and 24 was one of their lowest totals all season.

• The 2018 Rockets can do two things they couldn’t do in the past. They hit on 17 of 30 on the non-restricted area two point shots. The league average on these shots is 38%. But, Chris Paul is good at these shots and he was 11 of 17 on non-restricted area 2 point shots. The rest of the Rockets were 6 of 13 which is still respectable.

• The Rockets were the best isolation team in the NBA this year at 1.11 pts per direct isolation. They had just .86 tonight. James Harden was just .5 pts per isolation

• With all that said the Rockets offensive rating tonight was 102. This was their 76th best offensive night of the year out of 92 games. The Rockets won with defense.

• The Jazz offense could never get a rhythm against the switching defense of the Rockets nor could they ever consistently take advantage of the switching. The Rockets entered the game as the 6th best defense in the NBA and the Jazz were the 16th ranked offense and that is where the game was won. The Rockets defense was the difference. The Rockets switching defense forces the most isolation possessions in the NBA. The Jazz ended up with 22 isolations tonight and scored just .77 points v. isolation.

• The Rockets are the #2 defense in the NBA after they make a shot. When the Rockets were able to get their defense set in this game the Jazz had a very difficult time scoring. When the Jazz were able to get out and run they were able to get some good looks. The Rockets slip to 11th after a miss and 16th after a turnover.

• The Magic number in this series has been 14. You have to keep the Rockets below 14 three point shots. In 13 of their 17 losses they had fewer than 14 threes. They had less than 14 threes. The Rockets are also 52-10 if the opponent makes 12 or fewer three point shots and 8-6 if the opponent makes more than 14. The Jazz didn’t knock down shots tonight they were 7 of 29 from three. The Rockets were 10-38.

• When Harden takes 8 threes they are 50-9, when he takes 10 they are 39-4. He took 7 and was 1 for 7.

• The Rockets take 82% of all shots in restricted area or three point shots tonight they took 66%.

• The theme of all of this is the Jazz busted their butt tonight. They played incredibly hard. They made the Rockets uncomfortable. They forced the Rockets to play a game they don’t usually play. They checked off all the boxes of what you need to do to slow down the Rockets and win the game and they still lost by 13 and never really had a chance to win the game. They got it to 5 with a great flurry. This is a testament to who the 2018 65 win Houston Rockets are compared to who they have been in year’s past.

• Donovan Mitchell bounced back from a tough game 3 to finish with 25 points , 9 rebounds and 4 steals all surrounding incredible effort and desire.

• The Jazz didn’t play Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors together at all in this game. Favors was battling the ankle injury from Game 3.

• Dante Exum was incredible in the 1st quarter with 9 point but got 3 fouls and didn’t play the 2nd quarter. Then after sitting for over an hour of real time he injured his hamstring when he re-entered in the 3rd quarter.

• Alec Burks couldn’t replicate his game 2 going scoreless in 9 minutes. Jonas Jerebko who didn’t play game 2 had a larger role with Favors and Gobert not playing together and went scoreless in 14 minutes, he did have a rebound. Jae Crowder couldn’t find the magic he had earlier in the series and went 1 for 11, he is now shooting 34% for the playoffs.

• Clint Capela has been great in this series. He runs the floor as well as any big man in the league. He is forced in their system to defend on the perimeter and is really good at it and he has been impactful both on the boards and defending the rim. The Jazz were 21 of 42 in the restricted area. 42 shots in the restricted area is an incredible amount. The 21 misses if they were against the Jazz we would credit Rudy so we should probably credit Capela.

• The Rockets are the #1 defensive rebounding team in the playoffs and it is taking away a part of the Jazz on 2nd chance points.

• This was an incredibly physical game and yet not a lot of free throws.

• I leave this one as a testament to how much improved the Rockets are this season and am not sure with health of the roster as it is right now and was throughout the game that the Jazz had more to offer. Really impressed by both teams.

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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