James Harden and the Houston Rockets were looking to make a statement in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Utah Jazz. The No. 1 seeded team in the Western Conference certainly were able to make that statement. Houston dominated the game almost from start to finish, defeating the Jazz by a final score of 110-96.
After knocking off the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round, the Rockets are playing with a lot of confidence. Mike D’Antoni’s team was the best team in the NBA throughout the regular season. They finished the year with a 65-17 record and are now 5-1 so far in the playoffs.
Houston was led by Harden in scoring with 41 points on 12-of-26 shooting. He could not be stopped by the Jazz defense and continued making difficult shot after difficult shot. Harden also chipped in eight rebounds and seven assists in the game.
Chris Paul scored 17 points in the game, while Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker were the only other double-digit scorers in the game with 16 and 15 points respectively. Eric Gordon struggled off the bench with seven points on 0-of-6 shooting.
Donovan Mitchell and Jonas Jerebko scored 21 points each to lead the Jazz. Utah’s offense couldn’t get going in the first half and it was obvious that the team missed starting point guard Ricky Rubio.
All of that being said, what three things can the Rockets take away from their Game 1 victory over the Jazz?
James Harden and Chris Paul Work Perfectly Together
When the Rockets acquired Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers, there were quite a few questions about how he would fit with Harden. Both players prefer the ball to be in their hand, which many thought could be an issue. After seeing them play alongside each other in Game 1, it is obvious that they work perfectly together and their ability to score and make plays for teammates is going to be tough for Utah to defend.
Houston’s Defense Is Underrated
Houston only allowed Utah to score 39 points in the first half. Utah tried to make a comeback in the second half, but the Rockets’ defense was just too good for stretches throughout the game. They may give up points, but the Rockets are capable of turning the heat up on the defensive end of the court.
Eric Gordon Needs to Get Things Going
It has been an up-and-down season for Eric Gordon and that did not change in Game 1. Gordon didn’t make a single shot from the field and only scored seven points. Houston will need their sharpshooting shooting guard to figure things out moving forward if they want to win the Western Conference.
Houston will take on Utah in Game 2 on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern. Harden and company proved a point today, but the Jazz are a resilient basketball team and will come back looking to prove their own.