HOUSTON — So much of what the Houston Rockets have become under coach Mike D’Antoni focuses on the volume of 3-pointers taken and the influence their perimeter proficiency has offensively.
And even with a preponderance of evidence undergirding their dramatic improvement defensively Thomas Vanek Red Wings Jersey , the Rockets’ reputation remains cleaved to 3s and offensive efficiency, so much so that following the defensive clinic they orchestrated in Game 4 on Sunday in Salt Lake City, some Rockets were first greeted with queries on how many 3s they missed in their 100-87 win.
While at some point the narrative will change, the Rockets aren’t at all misguided. They stand one victory shy of clinching their Western Conference semifinal series with the Utah Jazz, and if they defend in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Toyota Center like they did in Games 3 and 4, the Rockets will likely advance to the Western Conference finals for the second time in four years.
“That’s how we’re going to win — period. Defense is going to win championships,” Rockets forward P.J. Tucker said. “At this point, everybody who is still in the playoffs is a great team. Everybody can score, everybody can do everything. So it’s going to be the team that prevails on defense, (the team that) gets stops that’s going to win.”
After allowing the Jazz to shoot 50.9 percent overall and 40.7 percent on 3-pointers while picking up a split of the first two games of the series, Houston limited Utah to 40.1 percent shooting in Games 3 and 4 Josh Tomlin Cleveland Indians Jersey , including 31 percent from behind the arc.
The Jazz built momentum in Game 2 behind strong showings from rookie guard Donovan Mitchell and veterans Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder, with Mitchell posting a double-double and Ingles and Crowder torched the Rockets from the perimeter.
Their collective success withered in Utah.
Mitchell and Ingles shot 30 percent and 34.8 percent at Vivint Smart Home Arena, respectively, with both missing 10 of 14 3-pointers. Crowder finished 8 of 13 on 3s at Toyota Center but was just 2 of 10 at home from deep and missed 15 of 17 shots overall.
The Rockets, with their switching defense and individual defenders, harassed the Jazz on the perimeter knowing full well that center Clint Capela would protect the rim if dribble penetration was surrendered.
Capela has enjoyed a dynamic postseason, averaging 15.4 points, 13 rebounds, and an NBA-high 2.6 blocks. He had six blocks in Game 4 and was everything Houston could hope for.
“He’s put himself in this position to go out here and play at a high level and just do things that we ask for him to do,” Rockets guard James Harden said of Capela. “Every single night he has our back, and it feels good to have somebody have our back like he does.
“He doesn’t get a lot of credit for it Anthony Miller Color Rush Jersey , he doesn’t ask for a lot, he just goes out there and does his job every single night. As a result, six blocks and 20 altered shots. That’s what he does.”
What remains for Utah is an uphill battle against a defense ranked second in efficiency this postseason. The Jazz flirted with the possible return of guard Ricky Rubio from a left hamstring injury only to lose guard Dante Exum to the same malady. Forward Derrick Favors (ankle) was slowed by injury in Game 4 yet played, leaving Utah facing elimination with a hobbled roster.
Perhaps being forced to dig deep into the bench led to Utah missing 22 shots at the rim in Game 4, or maybe it was the influence of the Houston defense. Whatever the case, the Jazz need hasty improvements.
“You can’t take anything away from them and the way that they play,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “But in order to beat them you have to be able to convert those opportunities, and we just didn’t.”
Trailing by 1 in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Houston Rockets needed someone to step up.
No surprise that it was James Harden who came through.
Harden scored 44 points and powered a big fourth-quarter run that allowed the Rockets to outlast the Timberwolves 104-101 Sunday night in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.
”We were struggling to make shots, struggling to really have any kind of rhythm and James put us on his back,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”He’s been doing it for a while now.”
Minnesota scored four straight points to get within 3 with about 30 seconds left. Chris Paul added two free throws after that for Houston Da'Ron Payne Color Rush Jersey , but a tip-in by Karl-Anthony Towns got Minnesota back within 3. After a bad pass by Paul gave the Timberwolves a chance to tie it with 1.5 seconds left, Jimmy Butler’s shot was short.
”Came up short,” Butler said. ”But I’d shoot it again if I had the opportunity.”
The Timberwolves had a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Houston used a 9-0 run, with the last seven points from Harden, to make it 94-86 with about four minutes to go. Harden, who also had a steal in that span, capped the run with a 3-pointer that prompted Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout.
Jeff Teague ended Minnesota’s scoring drought with two free throws after the timeout and added a 3-point play after a basket by Harden. Harden made another shot to give him 11 straight points for Houston before another basket by Teague.
Harden got Capela in on the scoring after that, finding him for an alley-oop that pushed the lead to 101-93 with less than three minutes left.
”Honestly I was just trying to be aggressive and make the right play,” Harden said. ”I think if you have that aggressive mindset, good things will happen.”
The top-seeded Rockets had their hands full with the No. 8 Timberwolves on a night where Houston made just 10 of 37 3-pointers. Harden shot 7 for 12 on 3-pointers, but Trevor Ariza http://www.coltsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-darius-leonard-jersey , P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon and Paul combined to make just 3 of their 22 tries.
”We’ve had games like this throughout the season and the biggest thing that I’ve learned, that I think our teams knows is that we don’t stop shooting,” Paul said. ”We still take the shots that we get and coming into Game 2 guess what? We’re going to shoot them again because we have that confidence.”
Houston kept All-Star big man Towns in check, limiting him to just eight points after he’d averaged 21.3 in leading the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2004. Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points to lead Minnesota.
Thibodeau said the Rockets did a good job of switching on Towns and using double-teams to slow him down, but admitted he has to do more.
”He’s got to be more active,” Thibodeau said.
Said Towns: ”I’ve got to be better all-around.”
The Wolves scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 56-54 lead. Tucker made a 3 for the Rockets after that, but Minnesota used a 6-1 spurt, with 3s from Wiggins and Teague, to go back on top 62-58.
The Rockets had managed just six points in the quarter when Gerald Green made a basket with to cut the lead to 1 with about five minutes left in the third. Derrick Rose added a bucket seconds later, but Houston scored six straight points after that to put Houston up 68-65. Harden got things going when he made a 3-pointer while being fouled by Rose and also made the free throw.
Minnesota led by a basket after a jump shot by Towns with about two minutes left in the quarter. Harden took over after that http://www.redskinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-kevin-hogan-jersey , scoring the last six points of the quarter to leave Houston up 76-72 entering the fourth.
Harden hit a 3-pointer before making a driving layup he was fouled on by Gorgui Dieng. Harden flexed each bicep twice while peering down at the muscles after the shot before making the free throw.
The Rockets swept the regular-season series 4-0, winning by an average of 15.8 points a game and it looked like this one might be another blowout early as the Rockets raced out to a 17-6 lead behind 10 early points from Clint Capela. But the Timberwolves got going after that and had tied it up by late in the first quarter.
The Rockets led 54-47 at halftime.
Timberwolves: Butler, who led the team by averaging 22.2 points in the regular season, finished with 13 points. … The Wolves made 8 of 23 3-point attempts. … Towns had 12 rebounds and two assists.
Rockets: Ryan Anderson missed the game with a sprained left ankle. D’Antoni said there was a chance he could return for Game 2, but that he would know more in the next couple of days. … Capela had 20 points and 10 rebounds at halftime, but was limited in the second half and added just four more points and two rebounds.
THEY SAID IT
Paul on tying a season-high with six turnovers: ”I think the worst thing was the turnovers. I feel like I was with the Bad News Bears.”
The Rockets finished with eight blocks on Sunday, led by three from Capela. The Rockets were 17-0 in the regular season when they had seven or more blocks.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|