Utah ended up falling to the Rockets by a final score of 110-96.
The Rockets superstar had 41 points, eight assists, and seven assists in a comfortable outing for Mike D'Antoni's men; the Jazz doing little to quell the concerns that this would be a tough matchup for them. Game 2 will be played next Wednesday. Harden responded as a soon-to-be MVP should. The Jazz are in for a series against the Rockets; a series that will take moves and counter-moves from both head coaches. But to quote the wise words of a French philosopher (actually Rudy Gobert), "We will be fine". Harden, however, has been the riddle Utah has been hopeless in attempting to answer.
Here are the keys for the Rockets in game 1.
LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-101 game-seven victory over the Indiana Pacers yesterday and into the second round of the National Basketball Association play-offs. Chris Paul chipped in 17 points.
If you're the coach of an National Basketball Association team, you know what the Houston Rockets are going to try to do to you. He's got so many ways to beat you, and then the fouls [he draws] if you try to take some of them away.More news: CORRECTED - Iran leader: U.S. pushes Riyadh to confront Tehran, stirs crisis
The Jazz hoped that Russell Westbrook would launch long-range shots off the dribble last series.
If you're already counting the current Jazz crew out after a bad half against one of the best offenses the National Basketball Association has ever seen (the Jazz won the second half, by the way), Rudy has something to say to you. Utah, meanwhile, just didn't have the firepower to match Houston. There just aren't sound ways to prevent Harden from dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing with the dribble, darting backward at any variety of angles and dropping rainbows. Harden averaged 34 points per game, while shooting 55 percent from the floor.
"I think for us as a whole, we kind of got stagnant with the ball", Mitchell said. "We've seen so many different defenses throughout this year that have prepared us for this moment". The road to where we want to be, which is a championship, is not going to be easy. The Rockets did give him some trouble putting bigger guys like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute on him, but he still managed 21 points on Sunday.
Houston would be just fine if they saw a repeat of that since they also swept their four regular season games from the Jazz. By the close of the frame, Harden and Paul had combined for as many points (21) as Utah managed, with the Rockets carrying a 13-point lead into the second.
Ricky Rubio was forced to miss Game 1 due to injury and he will miss more time. You may think that Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and crew could certainly still make a series of it. The Rockets have been good enough to overcome their best bench player struggling this way, but they will need Gordon's scoring as the playoffs roll on.
The mystery for the Jazz is how to stop Harden.