The Rockets dominated the Jazz in Game 1 of their first round series, as Houston’s offense lit up Utah in a 122-90 win. The 32-point margin of victory was indicative of how dominant the Rockets were in the game, namely James Harden, who was unfazed by the Jazz adopting Milwaukee’s approach of aggressively shading him right and not allowing him to get to his favorite stepback.
It’s a strategy the Bucks used to beat the Rockets twice and it’s based in sound ideas, but requires a ridiculous level of execution to make work — something the Jazz failed to do on Sunday night. Harden had 29 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds in the win, orchestrating the offense and happily passing to wide open shooters and rim-runners whenever Utah sent help as he entered the paint.
Utah got part of the Milwaukee strategy right, limiting his ability to get to his stepback, but they struggled to provide the proper support around that, allowing far too many passes to open shooters in the corners or to Clint Capela at the rim for lobs. It’s clear the Jazz have to go back to the drawing board between now and Game 2, but don’t expect them to abandon this strategy. Ricky Rubio explained on Monday morning why Utah was committed to the aggressive shading of Harden to prevent his stepback and how, while they certainly need to make improvements, they won’t be throwing it all out the window.