NBA Playoff Picks — Game 2: Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets
The Utah Jazz were pretty much knocked out of Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs by halftime, and maybe some expected that because of the lack of rest they had from their previous series. But now it is time to adjust, although you have to wonder if they can do it enough to prevail over the Houston Rockets in Game 2, which is set to get underway at 8:05 PM ET on Wednesday at the Toyota Center. Remember that if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can enjoy better odds with reduced juice, and then real-time wagering when you do it through Live Betting Ultra.
The series the Jazz played against the Oklahoma City Thunder was draining in a number of different ways, and that included losing a 25-point third quarter lead in Game 5, followed by a spirited effort in Game 6. And then they had to turn around a day and a half later to face the team that has the #1 Offensive Rating in the NBA. What’s more, they had to do it without Ricky Rubio, their point guard who is out of action with a hamstring injury.
The final in Game 1 was 110-96, and assigning Donovan Mitchell, the sensational rookie, to duties as the point guard was not necessarily fruitful. Does Utah have some way of improving on that? This is a genuine dilemma moving forward.
Houston’s James Harden, the leading scorer in the NBA, ran the Jazz ragged on Sunday, with 41 points, including seven triples, and now Utah coach Quin Snyder and his staff have had a couple of days to think about what they’re going to do next.
In the odds at BetAnySports on which we will make our NBA playoff picks for this one, the Rockets are laying double digits:
Houston Rockets -11
Utah Jazz +11
Over 206 points -110
Under 206 points -110
What sometimes happens when a scoring guard – or off-guard, if you will – has to handle the point is that his offensive production is affected by his responsibility to get teammates involved in the offense. That is the kind of thing that Rubio did very naturally, but not Mitchell. So that has an impact on the offensive flow, not to mention the rookie’s ability to create something off the ball.
So will there be a shifting of responsibilities? Well, that’s difficult, because Snyder doesn’t place a lot of trust in Dante Exum, the former first-round draft pick whose slow development necessitated Utah having to acquire George Hill and the Rubio. Raul Neto is the other available point guard, but this wouldn’t weaken the lineup.
So it’s Mitchell and Joe Ingles, the Australian import who is a small forward and a catch-and-shoot guy, handling the ball most of the time, unless Utah wants to dip into its bench, which would quite possibly hurt on the defensive end as well. Houston, which shot and made more triples than any other team in the NBA, creates a lot of space, naturally, and Harden’s ability to hit from the outside gives the Jazz a choice – to either let him shoot threes or run out on him and force him to attack the basket, where they have Rudy Gobert waiting. It should be noted that Gobert did not register a blocked shot in Game 1, and the Rockets have a center in Clint Capela who can keep him plenty busy. Capela, who had 16 points and twelve rebounds in the opener, led the league in field goal percentage, was fifth in offensive rebounding percentage,. and second in blocks. He can also beat Gobert down the floor much of the time.
We agree that Utah will be fresher with some rest. But they are going to get beaten in transition; they aren’t going to be able to handle Harden with Royce O’Neale, or Ingles, or Mitchell; and they lose rhythm on offense, as evidenced by 18 turnovers in Game 1. So they may have to wait until they get back to Salt Lake City to get even.
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