SUMMARY: The Rockets look every bit of last year’s Rocket and dominate game 1 over the Utah Jazz.
- Big picture thought before we start the in-game analysis. The biggest fear is that the Rockets who finished the year 20-4 after Clint Capela came back are the Rockets of last year. A dominating offense, the MVP in control and a defense that is good enough and disciplined enough to be top 10 making them the same team that was a few made threes away from the title last year. There is a chance the Rockets are every bit the 60+ win team they were a year ago.
- The Jazz offense is a much bigger issue than its defensive plan. Let’s play math. The Rockets offense averages about 114 pts per 100 possession. If the Jazz have a good defensive night they could probably hold the Rockets to about 107 points per 100 possessions. Thru 3 quarters tonight the defensive rating was about 112 or so. The Jazz offense against the Rockets this year was below 100 pts per 100 possessions and was again tonight. The Jazz defense has no chance to be good enough to keep the Jazz in the game unless the offense plays better.
- The Rockets switch all picks and handoffs. This means it is hard for the Jazz to play their regular advantage basketball system. The Jazz offense is based on getting an advantage and then continuing to move the ball and widen the advantage. It is why the Jazz have the best shot quality of any team in the NBA and why they get the most open looks. However, that system doesn’t work against the Rockets switching defense.
- The other aspect is the Jazz shot terribly. The disconcerting part is they shot terribly against the Rockets again. The Jazz shot quality tonight was right on their season average but they shot 10% below what an average shooter would have shot with these shots. The Jazz 3rd, 6th and 8th worst shooting nights are all against the Rockets. No other team is in that group twice and the Rockets are 3 times. Is this because of something the Rockets do or is it a coincidence.
- In the regular season the Jazz went 18 of 85 on above the break 3 point shots against the Rockets. Tonight the Jazz were 4 of 15. They are now 22 of 100 on above the break 3s in 5 games against the Rockets. 22% that is awful.
- The Jazz took 47% of their shots at the rim. That is great. You would like more threes but overall they took 79% of their shots as rim or threes. That is very good shot distribution.
- The Jazz usually have a 6 point advantage with shot distribution on an average night, in this series they have no advantage because Houston has good shot distribution. This is a significant problem.
- Defensively the Jazz played James Harden with a strong shade right. You do this because you want to prevent him taking a three and you want to prevent from fouling him. The last two games the Jazz played the Rockets James Harden had he 43 points and shot 15 free throws and had 47 points and shot 16 free throws. Tonight he had 3 free throws, shot 11 of 26 and had 29 points. This is one of his least good offensive nights of the year.
- What makes Harden amazing is he still dominated the game. He had 11 assists. 5 of them went to Capela for dunks and 3 went to PJ Tucker for corner 3s. The Rockets got 14 corner threes tonight and only made 5.
- The Rockets didn’t shoot the ball that well tonight. They were 25 of 32 at the rim which is a really high.
- When Harden drives Gobert is supposed to come out and deny his drive. He did a great job of this. At one point Harden missed 13 of 17 shots. The problem was the weak side guy is supposed to come into Harden. However, the Rockets, who are very well coached as well, moved Capela all over the place so he wasn’t always coming from the same spot and the same angle and this made it hard for the weakiside guy to find him. In addition, their were times where the Rockets changed their spacing and their was no one on the far side to come help and other times were they caused confusion. The other guys are really good too.
- There will be a lot of talk about this defense but thru three quarter the Rockets offensive rating was a 110.7. The Jazz on the season are #2 defense in the NBA at 4.7 points better than league average. The Rockets were 114.8 for the season. Therefore, thru three quarters the Jazz defense was about what you should anticipate. The offense however was a 95.9 compared to the Jazz average of 110 and the Rockets are an average defense.
- Rockets seemed very dialed into the Jazz beating them last year in game 2. Would be surprised if they blinked.
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