NBA PLAYOFFS

5 observations from the Rockets' Game 3 slaughter of the Utah Jazz

Chris Paul and the Rockets were not messing around with Utah. Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Remember all that panic when the Rockets lost Game 2 at home to Utah? That it happened on the same night the Astros lost to the Yankees just put the city in a tizzy. Well, the Astros beat the Diamondbacks 8-0 Friday night, and the Rockets destroyed the Jazz to take a 2-1 series lead. Five observations from the win:

Taking control early: The Rockets came out on fire, and this looked a lot like Game 1, as they rolled to a 70-40 halftime lead. They would extend that even more to 80-43 at one point. Utah's methodical, spacing offense had no chance to get them back in the game. If the Rockets are that efficient early, the Jazz simply can't compete.

Old fashioned way: The Rockets did not shoot the 3 well, which is usually a recipe for disaster, hitting just 11 of 36. The Jazz had just as many made on fewer shots. It is a little scary what this game might have looked like if they had shot closer to 40 percent.

Balanced attack: James Harden led the way with 25 points (and 12 assists), but all Rockets starters finished in double figures except P.J. Tucker, who had nine. Harden and Paul got help throughout the lineup, including a nice effort of the bench from...

Eric Gordon finally showed up: Gordon had been awful most of the playoffs, but something about being in Utah woke him up. He scored 25, including 8 of 13 shooting. The Rockets need him to be a key factor, and he finally was.

Turning the tide: Even in the Game 2 loss, the Rockets have been winning the turnover battle, and Friday was no exception. The Jazz had 17, while the Rockets only had eight. The Rockets also shot 48 percent to 41 for the Jazz, flipping that stat from Wednesday night.

All in all, it was a strong effort from the Rockets, who put it away early and coasted to the finish. It might have been the ugly Jazz jerseys that inspired them. Who knows? Another effort like that in Game 4 will make the eventual ending of this series even more inevitable.

 

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome