Through the first 11 minutes of the first quarter Sunday in Game 1 between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, the Jazz had their struggles getting going offensively, thanks in good part to being without starting point guard Ricky Rubio as he deals with a hamstring injury, but stayed within striking distance of the team that finished with by far the NBA’s best record in the regular season.
But as the Rockets have proved many times throughout the season, they can score in a hurry, as they closed the final 60 seconds of the frame on an 8-2 run to turn a 26-19 lead into a 34-21 advantage and didn’t look back in their 110-96 win.
First, Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would have cut the deficit to just four, and Houston’s Chris Paul responded by making a trey that was decently contested by Derrick Favors.
The Rockets' lead was up to 10, 29-19
Jae Crowder then missed a good look from downtown that was generated by getting the ball inside to Favors, who then kicked it out to him. Paul made a jumper over Dante Exum on the other end of the floor, and the lead was 12.
Favors then made a tricky layup to stop the bleeding, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute responded by making a 3-pointer with less than a second left on the first-quarter clock, and the Rockets owned a 34-21 edge.
In all in the first quarter, Houston shot 58 percent from the field, including 4 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. The Jazz, made three of their six attempts from downtown in the first 12 minutes, but just 39 percent of their total shots from the field.
By halftime as the Rockets opened up a commanding 25-point lead, they were shooting a tremendous 62 percent from beyond the arc (8 of 13) while Utah was just 4 of 12 for a 33 percent clip.
Houston finished the game 17 of 32 from distance while the Jazz went just 7 of 22. The Rockets shot by far the most 3-pointers of any NBA team during the regular season, but made just over 36 percent of them. Utah had very little time to try to scout Houston for Game 1, but will need to figure out a way of slowing the Rockets’ long-range attack as the series progresses.
While Favors and Rudy Gobert played well with each other during the first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz were able to cut the deficit to just 11 in the fourth quarter with Jae Crowder playing the “power forward” position and Favors at center to match up with PJ Tucker and Clint Capela.
In all, Favors and Gobert played together just 14 minutes on Sunday after averaging 22 minutes per contest together against the Thunder. Will that trend continue throughout the rest of the series?