We’re desperate. We let Game 2 slip away, and we came in here and had a pretty good game in Game 3. We’ve got to do the same thing tomorrow. —Rockets guard James Harden
SALT LAKE CITY — By all the talk at the Houston Rockets’ practice Saturday afternoon, it was hard to tell which team was up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series between the Rockets and Utah Jazz.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni and several players kept using the word “desperate” in talking about Sunday’s Game 4, and they weren’t referring to the Jazz, who are the team trailing 2-1 after the Rockets’ 113-92 thumping at Vivint Arena.
“We should be desperate, just like them,” said D’Antoni. “That’s what the playoffs is all about, to see if we can do it again. It’s the same keys for tomorrow — energy and getting after it defensively.”
“We’re desperate,” said James Harden, the presumptive MVP in the NBA this year. “We let Game 2 slip away, and we came in here and had a pretty good game in Game 3. We’ve got to do the same thing tomorrow. We’re just as desperate. We’ve got to do anything to get home-court advantage back.”
“They’re desperate; we’re desperate,” added P.J. Tucker. “We’re desperate to win a championship.”
The Rockets acknowledged they got a wake-up call from the Jazz in Game 2 when the Jazz jumped out to an early lead and then, after going down early in the fourth quarter, bounced back for a 116-108 victory.
After that, the Jazz got the full attention of the Rockets, and they still have it heading into Sunday’s game, which tips off at 6 p.m.
“The biggest thing is the energy level,” said D’Antoni. “We were complacent in the second game. We didn’t have a great game in Game 1, but we won fairly easily, and we were kind of lulled into making hard shots. We’re back to where we should be, and that’s energy and playing with a purpose.”
“For sure, still they’re a really great defense, with great rim protection from (Rudy) Gobert, but we’ve just got to find ways to be aggressive,” said Harden. “They try to take away my threes and our threes as a unit, so we’ve got to find other ways to attack them in the paint and make sure we finish attacking the rim and find other ways to score. All in all, it’s still a tough matchup.”
The Rockets played their best offensive game of the series Friday, but still didn’t shoot great, going 48.8 percent from the field, but just 11 of 38 from 3-point range, 30.6 percent. However, the Rockets were much better defensively in holding the Jazz to just 41.7 percent from the field after two games above 50 percent, and helping force the Jazz into 16 turnovers.
“It starts at the defensive end,” said D’Antoni. “We came out with the necessary energy and the right pace and all that. We can duplicate that.”
If the Rockets are able to win again on Sunday, they can wrap up the series on Tuesday night in Houston. Otherwise, the series returns to Vivint Arena for a game on Thursday night if the Jazz can win one of the next two games.
“It’s just one game and all we are is back to even,” said D’Antoni. “It’s like winning two at home and losing one on the road, so nothing’s changed. We’ve just got to continue what we did last night.”