NBA Basketball

Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Utah 20 22 27 24 93
Houston 20 26 29 25 100
5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)02:0020:00 ET7:00 PM CT23:00 , April 24, 2019
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,055

Defense keeps Jazz alive against Rockets

According to STATS
According to STATS

Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets

  1. Houston has gone 9-0 all-time in best-of-seven series when leading 3-1 -- it has only lost Game 5 twice. Utah has gone 0-12 all-time in best-of-seven series when trailing 3-1 -- it has gone 4-8 in those Game 5s.
  2. James Harden scored 30.2 percent of his team's points in the regular season, the highest percentage since Kobe Bryant (34.7) and LeBron James (31.0) both topped that mark in 2005-06. This postseason, Harden is scoring 26.0 percent of the Rockets' points, fourth most in the NBA.
  3. The Jazz held the Rockets to 22 points in the paint in Game 4, tied for the fewest any team has scored in a postseason game this season (Celtics, Thunder). Utah, however, is the only team in the Western Conference playoffs averaging under 100.0 points (99.0 -- four Eastern Conference teams doing so).
  4. Donovan Mitchell scored 19 points in the fourth quarter of the Game 4 win -- only Damian Lillard (25) and Jamal Murray (21) have had higher scoring quarters this postseason. He made three threes in that quarter -- only JJ Redick (four) has made more in a postseason quarter this season.
  5. Derrick Favors, Royce O'Neal and Ricky Rubio each had a double-double in the Game 4 win. The last time three Jazz players recorded double-doubles in a game and none of the three was named Rudy Gobert was April 16, 2014 (Jeremy Evans, Gordon Hayward, and Derrick Favors) -- Gobert's rookie season.
  6. Houston's point total and field-goal percentage have both decreased in each successive game of this series. Utah's point total and field-goal percentage have both increased in each game of the series.
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

It took until they reached brink of elimination, but the Utah Jazz may have finally figured out how to effectively defend against the Houston Rockets.

Utah needs the late success it found in Game 4 to continue if it hopes to remain alive with a win in Game 5 on Wednesday night in Houston.

The Jazz trailed entering the fourth quarter Monday in Salt Lake City, but the Rockets missed their final 13 3-point attempts as Utah avoided the first-round sweep with a 107-91 win.

"Physicality," Jazz center Rudy Gobert said when asked what fueled the improved defensive effort. "The first two games in Houston we started the games pretty soft, and that's not who we are. The fact that we lost the first two games, we had a reaction of pride, and we came out ready. Game 3 we were ready, (Game 4) we were ready, and Game 5 we're going to be ready."

Utah has shown steady improvement against James Harden and the high-octane Houston offense.

The Rockets shot 50.5 percent from the field while cruising to a 122-90 win in the opener. In Game 2, Houston shot 47.5 percent in a 118-98 win.

As the series relocated to Salt Lake City, the Jazz reclaimed their defensive identity, holding Houston to 38.4 percent shooting in Game 3 (a 104-101 Rockets win) and a 35.4 percent clip on Monday.

The Rockets, perhaps justifiably, could point to the fact that 0-for-13 shooting from deep has as much to do with their own wayward marksmanship as anything the Jazz did defensively.

But Utah can definitely argue that it has made life increasingly difficult for Harden. And when they stood just 12 minutes away from their season concluding, the Jazz found an internal spark.

"You can always control how hard you compete," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We were able to continue to compete. I thought the third quarter, we didn't start well and the beginning of the fourth, obviously, we started very well, and then we had guys step up and make plays on both ends of the floor."

Now the onus rests on the Rockets to fashion a counter to the adjustments Utah made at home.

Gobert and Derrick Favors have skillfully protected the rim and thwarted Harden repeatedly. For all the derision the Jazz faced regarding how they defended Harden in Games 1 and 2, their determination and willingness to adapt to changing strategies have served them well.

The Rockets realize that not only must they discover new means to unlock Harden, they also need to dig deep into their emotional reserves to match the fight Utah brought to the table.

Coincidentally, mustering the defensive might that Utah relied upon at home could work equally well for the Rockets in Houston. For all of their offensive weaponry, when the Rockets thrive, they do so by playing unparalleled defense, even against opponents with glittering defensive reputations.

"The way we won most of the other games was imposing our defense," Rockets guard Chris Paul said. "We were able to get stops on demand, and we didn't do that (in Game 4)."

--Field Level Media

Updated April 23, 2019

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