Jazz ground Rockets to level series 1-1
The Rockets are too good. The Rockets are too deep. James Harden is the MVP.
That’s just some of what the Utah Jazz heard heading into the series and after their Game 1 loss to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semi-finals.
27 points from Joe Ingles and a stifling fourth quarter defensive effort allowed the Jazz to steal the show.
The Jazz couldn’t repeat their dismal start from the series opener if they held hopes of stealing Game 2. Derrick Favors opened their account with a dunk on their first possession and from there they were on their way.
Utah jumped out to a quick lead and didn’t look back, going up eight at the first break and maintaining their hot shooting in the second to head into the main break with a 9-point advantage.
James Harden and the Rockets weren’t going to go down quietly, as the team who finished the regular season with the best record fought back, rallying behind their leader and likely MVP.
Harden’s drive and dish abilities were on full show in the third quarter as he recorded five assists, willing his Houston teammates along with him as they entered the last period down by just one.
The game could have gone either way, as Houston briefly held the lead midway through the fourth quarter following an Eric Gordon three-pointer, but the Jazz would not be denied as they quickly retook the lead and didn’t look back.
Utah’s defensive prowess was on show in the final frame as they held Houston to just six-for-23 shooting in the period, the Rockets normally potent offence was unable to fire.
Two thunderous dunks from Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell (17 points and 11 assists) and Dante Exum (five points in the last quarter) punctuated the Jazz victory who will head back to Salt Lake City full of confidence and looking to take the series lead.
Harden finished with 32 points but shot just two-for-10 from three and was held to just five points in the fourth. Chris Paul chipped in 23 points for the Rockets who will look to bounce back in Game 3 on Saturday.