The Utah Jazz have seen plenty of fits facing the Houston Rockets and their star player, James Harden, who only needed 37 minutes to drop 41 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in a 110-96 Game 1 win to tip off the series.
Figuring out a scheme to stop Harden will be the top priority for this team in hopes to steal a game on the road and even up the series, the same way they did against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni warned it wouldn’t be that easy.
“You can put a list of about 28 other teams that don’t have an answer, either. There’s no answer,” said D’Antoni, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “He might play bad because he’s human, but there’s nothing that you can conceivably come up with to stop him.”
Gimmicks have worked in the past, like the San Antonio Spurs putting up the archaic triangle-and-two defensive scheme to freeze volume outside shooters like Harden and Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon — but none have lasted for long, given the arsenal of weapons at Harden’s disposal.
Harden shot under 50 percent, making 12-of-26 from the floor, but his deep ball prowess favored him, making 7-of-12 from deep, while making the Jazz pay with 10-of-11 from the foul line, finishing with a game-high plus-15 mark.
The Rockets canned 17-of-32 from distance, which has proven an unstoppable recipe to cure any disrupting virus the Jazz might throw their way.
Sunday’s outing was Harden’s second 40-point game this postseason, tied with former teammate Russell Westbrook and second only to LeBron James, who owns three during a seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers.