Harden, Rockets cruise past Jazz in Game 1

Tanya Simon
April 15, 2019

A year ago in the Rockets conference semifinal triumph over the Jazz, Paul was second on the team in scoring (24.6 points per game), he was second on the team in rebounding (7.0 rebounds per game) and second on the team in assists (6.2 assists per game.) His ability to knock down shots from the midrange and find those shots as Jazz closed out on the shooters was invaluable in the Rockets making quick work of Utah.

Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz after not scoring more than 15 points in a game in the playoff series against the Rockets last season. Donovan Mitchell has been leading the team with 23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Denver All-Star Nikola Jokic posted the fourth triple-double in Nuggets playoff history, with 10 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds.

Their first hurdle is getting past Utah, whom they eliminated in the conference semifinals last season. The Utah Jazz are shooting 25.9 percent from beyond the arc and 85.2 percent from the free throw line.

DeRozan powered the Spurs with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists.

The Jazz are No. 4 in the National Basketball Association in scoring defense at 106.5 points per game and No. 9 with 46.4 rebounds per contest.

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Beyond that, Houston is just the better side.

Although they were held to just 12 free-throw attempts for the game, half of their season average, the Rockets made 11 of them.

Pick up the pace - As Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni noted Saturday, they need to push the pace against Utah and avoid running the shot clock down repeatedly. Defensively, Houston is giving up 109.1 points per game while opponents shoot 46.6 percent against them and they hold foes to only 34 percent shooting from 3-point land.

However, Houston learned the hard way last season about taking the Jazz for granted. Rubio, who finished with 15 points, didn't play against Houston in the playoffs last season after injuring his hamstring in a first-round series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Denver, where the second-seeded Nuggets failed to parlay the NBA's best home-court record (34-7) into a win against the seventh-seeded but much more seasoned Spurs. His three-point play at the 4:54 mark of the period extended the lead to 74-61 and, when Harden drilled a stepback 3-pointer with 3:09 left in the third, the Rockets reclaimed their 15-point lead. I'll eat the chalk again with the Rockets.

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