Houston • On Sunday night, the Jazz were blown out in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Rockets, ultimately falling by 32 points.
And yet, on Monday afternoon, no one was waving a white flag.
The Jazz know they didn’t play well. And they know the Rockets did. And they know a lot of things will have to be improved for the series’ second game on Wednesday — which they were confident would prove to be the case.
“We can tell there was a little bit of nervousness from it being Game 1 of the playoffs. We’ve still got a young group, so some of it is normal,” forward Thabo Sefolosha said at Monday’s media session at the Post Oak Hotel. “It’s behind us now, and we can just focus on being who we are, playing our brand of basketball, and going a little harder in Game 2.”
A lot of that going harder will have to come on the offensive end.
While much was made of Utah’s failed attempts to contain James Harden, it was actually the team’s issues on the other end of the court that may have been more problematic.
Joe Ingles struggled to beat defenders off the dribble, which negated pick-and-roll opportunities. Jae Crowder couldn’t get his shot working from long range, making only 1 of 7 from deep. Donovan Mitchell had trouble with the Rockets’ aggressive, in-your-face physicality. And so, the Jazz shot just 39% from the field; they were 7 of 27 (25.9%) from 3-point range; they committed 19 turnovers that led to 24 Houston points; they amassed only 17 assists.
Jazz big man Derrick Favors said it wasn’t a matter of the Rockets surprising them with anything unusual, but rather Utah’s players not responding well to what they knew was coming.
“What they do, they’ve been doing it all year. We’ve just got to play better and be a little more patient in what we’re doing, make better plays,” he said. “We missed a couple shots that we normally make, out on the 3-point line, up by the rim. Make a couple more baskets, be more patient, and who knows what can happen for us.”
Part of it, the Jazz acknowledged, is that the Rockets have a unique defense, with Sefolosha noting, “They do things differently than a lot of teams — it’s pretty unpredictable at times.”
But Favors countered that, after going through a film session earlier in the day, it was apparent that the Jazz had many opportunities they simply didn’t convert.
“We had some shots that were open that we missed, and we also had some shots open that we didn’t find, whether the guard didn’t get it to him or the big didn’t get it to the guys in the corner,” he said. “It just goes back to we’ve gotta be patient.”
He vowed there would be adjustments coming in Game 2.
Sefolosha, meanwhile, sought to reassure Jazz fans perhaps concerned that their team is simply outgunned in this series.
“We have the tools and the weapons to pick them apart,” he said, “and we’ve just got to do it better and longer.”