Rockets showcase what they must: Lockdown D

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HOUSTON — The determined 36-footer by Donovan Mitchell sailed over the backboard, a depressing second that epitomized the Utah Jazz’s offensive woes of their 122-90 Recreation 1 loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday evening.

Mitchell had no selection however to toss up a prayer after receiving a go so removed from the basket simply earlier than the expiration of the shot clock, which was pelted with the errant shot. The Rockets’ aggressive protection had snuffed out each motion the Jazz tried on the possession, a theme all through the evening.

“Their physicality defensively disrupted us,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder mentioned. “The ball stopped and bought caught on one facet of the ground. We simply must be extra decided in these conditions.”

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The Rockets held the Jazz to 39 p.c taking pictures from the ground (7-of-27 from Three-point vary) and compelled 18 turnovers within the rout. It was the type of dominant defensive efficiency that offers the Rockets, a traditionally elite offensive staff, confidence that they’re professional title contenders.

“It would not shock me that we are able to defend,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni mentioned. “In any respect.”

The Rockets, one of many NBA’s worst defensive groups through the first half of the season, have excelled on that finish because the All-Star break. Solely Utah ranked above Houston in defensive effectivity because the All-Star break, because the Rockets allowed solely 105.Three factors per possession throughout that span, a significant component within the Rockets’ league-best 20-5 end.

“That is what we have now to do,” mentioned Rockets famous person James Harden, who had sport highs of 29 factors and 10 assists. “That is how we have now to play defensively. Now we have to be aggressive. Now we have to disrupt their routes and their performs and issues they love to do and ensure that they don’t seem to be comfy. If we do not try this, we do not have an opportunity. Defensively, we have been locked in these final couple of months.”

Reserve guard Austin Rivers raised some eyebrows after a March 28 rout of the Denver Nuggets when he declared that the Rockets would win a championship in the event that they continued to play elite protection. However that is a perception held all through the Houston locker room.

“That is one thing that we at all times emphasize,” mentioned ahead PJ Tucker, the Rockets’ finest defender. “After we’re aggressive as a staff, our protection goes to a different stage. We’re being bodily on box-offs, on all of the switches, and we’re being aggressive and getting up into folks, making them drive. If you try this, it places strain on the offense to attempt to make the precise performs.”

The Jazz repeatedly made poor selections below duress or needed to accept low-percentage pictures in Recreation 1. With Eric Gordon as his main defender, Utah go-to man Donovan Mitchell had a very robust evening, ending with 19 factors on 7-of-18 taking pictures with no assists and 5 turnovers.

“It is one sport and it’s important to study from it, however I can not don’t have any assists and 5 turnovers,” Mitchell mentioned. “I do not care what number of minutes you play or no matter. When you get 5 turnovers, it’s important to have a look at your self within the mirror and determine the way to regulate.”

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