The Rockets took a commanding 2-0 series lead with another blowout win over the Jazz in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Houston picked up a 118-98 win, and Utah, to this point, has shown zero ability to compete in this series.
The Jazz approached Game 2 with the same defensive strategy they used in Game 1. Utah is essentially giving James Harden a free lane into the paint in an attempt to try and keep him from bombing from 3-point range. The strategy has failed miserably to this point, so we’ll see if Quin Snyder has any adjustments in store for Saturday’s Game 3 in Salt Lake City.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
Harden averaged an NBA-best 36.1 points per game during the regular season, but he’s been “held” to an average of 30.5 points per game through the first 2 games of this series. Frankly, the Rockets just haven’t needed the reigning league MVP to dominate the way he did during the regular season to this point.
Utah’s plan to keep Harden from shooting too many triples had led to him being able to knife his way into the paint and find open teammates. Harden is averaging 10 assists through the first 2 games of the series, and the Rockets as a team have connected on 38.6 percent of their looks from long range so far.
The Rockets shoot more threes than any team in the league. Utah can try to slow them down, but that won’t stop Houston from getting those shots up. Eric Gordon has connected on better than 54 percent of his looks from the 3-point line so far in the series, while P.J. Tucker (50 percent), Harden (43.5) and Austin Rivers (40) have also been making the Jazz pay.
Houston has been arguably the league’s hottest team since the All-Star break, and when their offense is humming the way it is they’re incredibly difficult to slow down.
Time Running Out for Utah
Going down 0-3 would obviously be a death knell for the Jazz’ hopes in this series. Drawing Houston in the first round was about the worst-case scenario for Utah, who, to this point, look like they have no real chance of clawing their way back.
The Jazz will benefit from a loud crowd on Saturday night, but they’re going to need all the help they can get. Donovan Mitchell is tasked with carrying Utah’s offense, but so far, it’s a task he hasn’t been up for. Mitchell is averaging 15 points per game through the first 2 games of the series, which is a far cry from his season average of 23.8.
Mitchell is also shooting just 32.4 percent from the field and just 26.7 percent from beyond the long line. Rudy Gobert has actually been Utah’s leading scorer so far. Gobert is a nice player, but if he’s leading your offense you’re likely in trouble.
Defense has been Utah’s calling card all season long, and they’re going to need to be flying around on that side of the ball in order to have a chance here. The Jazz finished the regular season with a defensive rating of 103.2 points per 100 possessions, which ranked second in the league behind Milwaukee.
Do the Jazz have enough shooting to keep up in this series? So far, they do not. Utah has connected on just 23.1 percent of their 3-point looks through the first 2 games, which gives them the second-lowest 3-point percentage to this point of any team in the playoffs. Only Oklahoma City has been less accurate from deep.
I get why the Jazz are favored here. They’re at home, and teams down 0-2 coming back home generally fare well in the NBA playoffs. The crowd will be behind the team in a desperate attempt to help them get back into the series.
However, as mentioned previously, nothing from the first 2 games of this series has convinced me that the Jazz have what it takes to give the Rockets much of a sweat. Harden is at the peak of his powers right now, and his supporting cast is better than last year’s, which could’ve won the championship had things broken a little differently in the Western Conference Finals.
Betting against the Jazz at home has been a tricky endeavor this season. Utah is 29-12 straight-up on their home floor, while they’re a solid 21-19-1 against the spread at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
However, it’s safe to say we won’t be getting the Rockets as underdogs very often during the playoffs, so it’s an opportunity I’m willing to jump all over as a bettor. I like Houston to win the game outright, which means I’d obviously be betting on them to cover the 3-point spread and win on the moneyline. The Rockets to win at +120 on the moneyline is outstanding value here.
Give me Houston to win this game and take a 3-0 series lead on Saturday night. Bet the moneyline on the Rockets.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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