Houston (USA), – The guard James Harden returned to show his condition of Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the League by providing a triple-double of 32 points, 13 rebounds -11 defensive and 10 assists that left at the helm of the Houston Rockets attack that prevailed by beating the Utah Jazz 118-98 and dominating the Western Conference playoffs 2-0 in the first round.
Harden, who got his third triple-double in the playoffs as a pro, had already scored 25 points at the end of the first half, which ended with a partial 70-44 in favor of the Rockets, and everything decided for the Houston team.
While Paul supported him with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Although Harden and Paul did not have their best control of the ball, they combined to lose 14, with eight and six, respectively, the Rockets were always ahead of the score and the pace of the game.
Escort Eric Gordon and forward PJ Tucker finished with 16 points each and completed the list of the four Rockets players who had double-digit numbers.
This time the Swiss center Clint Capela could not reach the 10 points, he stayed with seven, but he made it under the hoops to capture 10 rebounds and put three blocks.
The Rockets also scored 17 3-pointers and for 11 consecutive games they managed at least 15 baskets from outside the perimeter.
As a team, the Rockets got 48 (38-80) percent of hits in field goals and 41 (17-42) of triples, captured 46 rebounds and committed 18 turnovers.
Something that did not like Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who at the end of the game said that the team should improve in that facet of the game for the next games.
“Certainly we have made a good game, we have confidence in our game, but we must improve aspects such as the losses of the ball, which in more even matches on the score can cost you defeat,” said D’Antoni at the end of the game .
From the beginning of the match, the Rockets were at the forefront with unstoppable Harden and they showed it at the end of the first quarter with a partial 39-19, which was impossible to overcome by the Jazz before the great defense that also played the Houston team .
Gordon became a real nightmare in the marking he did to the star escort of the Jazz, Donoan Mitchell, who finished the game with just 11 points, after failing 14 of 19 field goals, including 7 of 8 from outside the perimeter.
Without Mitchell as leader of the attack of the Jazz the only player who could compete with the Rockets was the Spanish base Ricky Rubio who fought to the maximum in Harden’s marking, which prevented the contribution of the star of the Rockets was greater.
Rubio, who played 32 minutes, was left at the gates of a double-double, finishing the game with 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds.
The player of El Masnou scored 7 of 17 field goals, including a three-pointer of three attempts, and hit 2-2 from the personnel line, in addition to recovering four balls, lost two others and pointed out two personal fouls.
“Ricky (Rubio) was the only one of our players who knew how to adapt mentally to the successes of the Rockets, with Harden, Paul and Capela,” said Jazz coach Quinn Snyder. “The Rockets are at a great level of play, but our team was frustrated at all times, except Ricky.”
Along with the Spanish international, guard-forward reserve Royce O’Neale, reached 17 points, distributed four assists and captured three rebounds.
The French pivot Rudy Gobert returned to be the best of the Jazz in the indoor game with a double-double of 11 points, 12 rebounds and recovered two balls, but in the end he could not be a winning factor either.
As a team, the Jazz had 40 (39-98) percent in field goals, and 21 (8-38) in triples, while from the personnel line, they had only 67 (12-18) hundred.
The only facet of the game in which the Jazz won the Rockets were the 48 rebounds that they had for 46 of the Houston team.
The duel between the Rockets and the Jazz is the second consecutive that they keep in the Western Conference playoffs after last year they also did it in the semifinals with the Houston team winning 4-1 in the series that played the best of seven.
The third game of the series will be played next Saturday, in Salt Lake City, and the fourth, will also be the field of Jazz, next Monday.