(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Troy Taormina)
The Houston Rockets lost their home-court advantage as they dropped Game 2, 116-108. The Rockets’ shots weren’t quite falling as they shot a miserable 40 percent from the field and a mere 10-of-37 from beyond the arc. James Harden and Chris Paul both didn’t have it going as they finished a combined 17-of-41. Eric Gordon also had another horrific shooting game as he went 5-of-16. The Rockets’ defense let them down as they fell into a first-half hole. They stormed back to take the lead in the second half, but they couldn’t make enough stops in the end.
The Jazz started out hot on offense and aside from a quick blip in the third quarter, they didn’t really let up. They went 52 percent from the floor and 15-of-32 on 3-pointers. They shot that well even with Donovan Mitchell having by far his worst shooting game of the playoffs. The rookie sensation was a mere 6-of-21 for 17 points. However, he did have a career-high 11 assists as he set up Joe Ingles, who was awesome with 27 points (7-of-9 on 3s). Alec Burks and Jae Crowder also provided a major spark off the bench with 32 combined points.
Three keys to the game
Rockets’ offensive revival - Houston’s high-octane offense was clearly off as they just can't get their shots to go in. But of course, a team that features the elite offensive talents of Chris Paul and James Harden isn’t likely to go back-to-back games playing that poorly on offense. They’re liable to get a few more of their 3-pointers to go in, so the Jazz must be ready to ratchet up their defense.
Jazz bench - With Mitchell struggling offensively, the Jazz bench came to the rescue. Burks, in particular, was excellent as he erupted with 17 points and provided the team with a lot of impetus. Jae Crowder also made a bunch of shots and Dante Exum gave good energy. With Eric Gordon struggling with his shot, the bench is one big advantage Utah has over Houston. They must continue to make it count at home, where the likes of Burks and Exum are likely to play much better.
Pushing the pace - The Jazz were one of the slowest teams in the league in terms of pace this season, but they did well to push the ball up in Game 2 and got some easy transition looks. Mitchell and Burks were particularly impressive in staying aggressive and attacking the Rockets defense early before Capela can get set and protect the paint. The Jazz surely can’t shoot as well as they did in Game 2, so they need to get the consistently good looks that pushing the pace can do.
Matchup to watch
Clint Capela vs Rudy Gobert - Capela had another brilliant game in Game 2 as he’s more than held his own against Rudy Gobert inside. Capela is easily the Rockets’ third most reliable scorer behind Paul and Harden, so they’ll need him to keep producing. But Gobert has been a force in his own right on both ends of the court, with his defense obviously his more impactful contribution.
Rockets projected starting lineup
PG - Chris Paul | SG - James Harden | SF - Trevor Ariza | PF - PJ Tucker | C - Clint Capela
Jazz projected starting lineup
PG - Donovan Mitchell | SG - Royce O’Neale | SF - Joe Ingles | PF - Derrick Favors | C - Rudy Gobert
Capela has been brilliant through the majority of this postseason. The Swiss big man is averaging 19 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks in his last four games. He’s a good bet to continue that tremendous production.
As for the Jazz, Joe Ingles has been spectacular of late. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 18 points, five boards, and four assists, while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 52 percent on 3s. It remains to be seen how long he can keep that hot shooting up, but he has played noticeably better at home than on the road in these playoffs.
The Jazz look good in this spot. They should be riding high after that huge road win, and the home crowd should give them a nice boost in Game 3. Look for Mitchell to play a lot better at home, as well as the other Jazz role players. Take Utah to cover the four-point spread as home underdogs.
The Jazz take a 2-1 series lead over the top-seeded Rockets as they claim a 107-102 win at home in Game 3.
This game will be broadcast on ESPN. Tip-off is at 10:30 pm Eastern.