Jazz at Rockets Game 2 Preview
The Houston Rockets look to take a 2-0 lead when they host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series. Star guard James Harden scored 41 points in Houston’s series-opening 110-96 victory to continue his season-long assault of the Jazz.
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Harden averaged 34.3 points in four meetings with the Utah in the regular season — including a 56-point outing — and the defensive-minded Jazz once again had no answers on slowing down the MVP candidate. “You can put a list of about 28 other teams that don’t have an answer, either,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “There’s no answer. He might play bad because he’s human, but there’s nothing that you can conceivably come up with to stop him.” Utah isn’t fretting over the Game 1 loss as it also lost the opener of its first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder before recovering to win in six games. “We were in the exact same situation,” Jazz small forward Joe Ingles told reporters. “Everyone had written us off after Game 1, probably the way they have now. We have a great group. We love being able to have the time to watch the film and make some adjustments.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE JAZZ: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell is picking up a large portion of the ball-handling with veteran point guard Ricky Rubio (hamstring) sidelined and he committed four turnovers to go with 9-of-22 shooting while scoring 21 points in the opener. The point total was Mitchell’s lowest in seven games this postseason and he was also hampered by a sore ankle, which he insists won’t be a problem in Game 2. “My head was never down, and I don’t think my teammates’ heads were down,” Mitchell told reporters. “It’s one game out of a long series.”
ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Harden had nothing to reveal for why he typically enjoys success against a team that ranked sixth in scoring defense at 102.4 during the regular season. “For the most part, I’m going to do what I do,” Harden told reporters. “Offensively I think this team, us, we’re different. We’ve seen so many different defenses throughout the year that have prepared us for this moment, whether it’s (Utah center Rudy) Gobert being back at the rim or teams switching or whatever. We’ve seen pretty much it all, all year.” Harden received complementary help from point guard Chris Paul (17 points), center Clint Capela (16 points, 12 rebounds) and forward PJ Tucker (15 points) in the opener.
1. It remains unclear whether Rubio will return later in the series — the length of it would be one of the factors.
2. Utah reserve F Jae Crowder had 21 points and five 3-pointers in the series opener, his second-best totals in each category this postseason.
3. Houston reserve SG Eric Gordon missed all six of his shots in Game 1 and is shooting just 31.4 percent from the field in the postseason.