Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Game 2 Preview and Pick
Game 1 of the first round series between the Rockets and Jazz was not as hotly-contested as some had anticipated. Of course, it’s safe to say Houston is better than your average No. 4 seed. The Rockets wound up with the 4 thanks in part to a sluggish start to the season, but they have really kicked things into gear over the past few weeks.
Houston stormed its way to a 32-point victory in Game 1 and the Jazz never really stood a chance. Utah schemed its defense in an attempt to turn James Harden into a distributor, and the reigning MVP acquiesced by churning out 10 assists in what was a completely dominant showing on Sunday night.
Oddsmakers aren’t panicking when it comes to the Jazz’ chances quite yet, though, as Utah is listed as just a 6.5-point underdog ahead of Game 2.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
|2019 ATS Home||21-19-1||24-16-2|
|2019 ATS Away||23-18-1||17-23-1|
|2019 O/U Home||19-22-0||20-19-3|
|2019 O/U Away||20-21-1||16-23-2|
Harden was “held” to 29 points in the first game, but the Rockets didn’t need their best player to come up with buckets in bunches in order to do away with the Jazz. Harden was methodical about his approach and scored when needed rather than forcing the issue.
We’ll see if the Jazz tinker with their defensive approach this evening, but as it stands there’s pretty much zero reason to assume Utah has a real chance of slowing him down. Harden averaged better than 33 points per game in the 4 regular season meetings with the Jazz. While that was about 3 points under his season average, it’s evident that he can still get whatever he wants whenever he wants it.
It will also be interesting to see if Houston’s complementary pieces show up in Game 2. The Rockets got big nights out of guys like Danuel House and P.J. Tucker in the first game. Tucker and House were left open to shoot with so much attention being focused around Harden, and they made the Jazz pay dearly.
House and Tucker combined to hit 6 3-pointers in Game 1, and the Rockets finished 15-41 (36.6 percent) overall as a team. Utah hit just 7 of their 27 attempts from long range. If the Jazz aren’t able to at least keep up when it comes to knocking down their triples tonight, they could be in for another rough evening.
Jazz’ Last Dance?
Going down 0-2 wouldn’t be a death knell for the Jazz’ chances to win the series, but going down 2 games early on is never a great sign. Donovan Mitchell finished just 7 for 18 from the floor in Game 1, and none of his teammates really stepped up to help him out on the offensive end of the floor.
The Jazz were held to just 39 percent shooting as a team, and they also committed 18 turnovers to just 10 for Houston. Losing the turnover battle is typically a good way to lose, as is shooting sub-40 percent from the floor.
The Jazz can’t worry themselves about containing Harden, they primarily have to concern themselves with trying to keep up offensively. Getting dominated from beyond the 3-point line is a deadly strategy against a Rockets team that shoots more threes than anybody.
Despite this being the 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference, Game 1 showed just how much of a mismatch this series is. Utah has no secondary offensive playmaker capable of stepping up if Mitchell struggles again, while Houston can spread the floor with deadly shooters while letting Harden go to work.
I think the spread is too low here, and I don’t think that’s me being a prisoner of the moment. The Rockets are incredibly tough to stop when they get things going, and if they play with the same defensive vigor we saw in Game 1, they’re going to be an incredibly tough team for anyone to beat in these playoffs.
I like the Rockets again tonight, and I think they should have little issue covering that 6 ½-point spread. I don’t think we’ll see a full-on massacre like we saw the other night, but things are not boding well for the Jazz’ chances in this series. I’d be betting on Houston to cover at home on Wednesday night.
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