After another Rockets blowout over the Jazz, the biggest question now is whether this will even be a competitive series before Utah bows out.
Playing the Houston Rockets right now is like swimming in shark infested waters after someone’s dumped a bucket of chum all over you. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
If that visual is a little too ugly for you, just imagine how the Jazz feel right about now. They had a stretch in Game 2 where they did the unthinkable and stopped the Rockets offense, forcing Houston into missing 12 of 14 shots in the late-first/early-second quarter when the game should have still been in doubt. The lead never got below 14 points. That bit of futility was barely a speed bump on the way to a 20-point victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score would indicate.
That 20-point margin was the same at the final buzzer as it was after just eight minutes when Houston took a 33-13 lead and never looked back behind the utter dominance of James Harden.
We need to find a new word to describe James Harden. Because on second thought, “dominant” is no longer cutting it.
The MVP-co-fave finished with a 30-point triple double and that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. He essentially coasted after halftime, at which point he’d already accumulated 25 points, seven dimes and seven boards. When the Rockets took that initial 20-point lead, Harden had scored or assisted on 28 of the Rockets 33 points. He was ubiquitous.
He’s not the only reason this wasn’t a game though, as credit once again goes to Houston’s defense. Until Utah’s offense got going in garbage time — the fourth quarter was the first frame in the series they hit the 30-point mark — the Jazz offense was once again M.I.A.
After a “meh” 19 points on 18 shots in the opener, Donovan Mitchell was a “bleh” 5-for-19 in Game 2, scoring just 11. Joe Ingles was also notably quiet again, finishing with only seven points after going 1-of-6 from deep. The Rockets defense was everywhere, and perhaps no better play summed it up than this double dutch from Clint Capela:
Finally, can we pour one out for Rudy Gobert? The French Rejection is probably a 50/50 bet to win the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second year in a row, and for the second year in a row, Harden is rendering him nearly unplayable.
Gobert has gotten even better this season at coming further out and challenging the perimeter than he was last year, but it’s still no match. In 65 minutes over the first two games, he is a minus 43, the worst mark on the Jazz. The death of the big man has been greatly exaggerated, but this is just a brutal matchup, and it’s not clear what Utah can do to fix it.