We need to empty our cup, so to speak, and be in a good place ... I think Game 1 hopefully provides a little bit of a road map for that. —Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder
HOUSTON — Quin Snyder looked no worse for the wear in skinny jeans, a golf shirt and smoky gray leather sneakers on Monday. Even in his off-day clothes, he appeared put together in a careless, affluent way.
An eyeball test doesn’t show it, but it has been a harrowing week for the Jazz coach. His team played Friday in Salt Lake and 40 hours later was getting a righteous thrashing in Houston. But now that the Jazz have had nearly three days’ rest, it should be a different team for Wednesday’s Game 2.
Problem is, he’ll be facing the same Houston team that has defeated him five times this season, by an average of 17 points. Nothing has changed for the Rockets.
The Jazz have done more shocking things than beating Houston. Reaching the playoffs, for one. But it’s debatable how much difference a rest will make. Houston is getting the same amount of sleep as the Jazz.
The Rockets had the advantage in Game 1, having wrapped up their series with Minnesota two days before the Jazz dispatched Oklahoma City. But that wasn’t the whole of it. The Jazz got slammed by a lights-out shooting performance from Houston’s James Harden, which would have overwhelmed anyone, on any night.
“He hit a lot of shots with a hand in his face,” Jazz forward Jae Crowder said.
So file the Jazz’s “we’ll be rested” mantra in the Department of So What. Unless they add a point guard to replace Ricky Rubio, that only means a little. Everything else depends on personnel and execution, which was in short supply Sunday.
Houston deserves credit for, well, giving the Jazz credit. Instead of crowing or taunting, the Rockets simply chalked up their 27-point lead to Jazz fatigue. Guard Eric Gordon said his team’s letdown in the third quarter, when the Jazz cut the deficit to 15, was its own fault.
“That’s why we’re going to do even better in the next game, and we know that they’re going to be better next game, because they’re probably a little tired from their last series,” Gordon said.
Then he dropped the other shoe. “But we can get better as well.”
That’s what the Jazz are afraid of.
“They had some dead legs,” offered Houston coach Mike D’Antoni.
Snyder wasn’t playing along, this week.
“I don’t think you look to that as the reason for losing the game,” he said.
It would be naïve to think fatigue was unrelated to Game 1 in some way. But even a fresh Jazz team can’t beat Houston on a night of 53 percent shooting from 3-point range. During the regular season, the Jazz actually were better on the second game of back-to-backs than the first. They were 10-6 in second games, but just 8-8 in first games.
When the teams met in November, both were coming off a day’s rest. On Dec. 7, the Jazz had a day’s rest, while Houston had three days to recover. Both teams played two days prior to their Dec. 18 matchup. In the final regular-season meeting, the Jazz had a day’s rest, while Houston played the night before at Denver.
The Rockets won 'em all, short layoff or long.
Will the Jazz be fresher on Wednesday?
“No doubt, no doubt,” Crowder said.
Two invigorated teams will take the stage for Game 2, but only one has claimed all five games they’ve played this year, including playoffs.
“I think being able to rest — and being able to game plan is also a big one,” said Donovan Mitchell.
“I think we were ready to compete (Sunday), but there’s just only so much you can take on,” Snyder said, referencing the grinding series with Oklahoma City. “We need to empty our cup, so to speak, and be in a good place ... I think Game 1 hopefully provides a little bit of a road map for that.”
The only map they’ve seen so far is the one leading to the offseason.