Houston • For all the attention deservingly focused on the Jazz’s injury situation, it’s not as though the Rockets were completely healthy, themselves.
Admittedly, coach Mike D’Antoni missing three games while hospitalized for an intestinal virus isn’t quite the same as Derrick Favors, Ricky Rubio, and Kyle Korver sitting out multiple games for Utah, but Houston still missed its leader.
Asked if it felt as though he’d been gone for awhile, D’Antoni answered affirmatively, before quipping, “It won’t bother my shot at all, so I’ll be fine!”
D’Antoni aside, the Rockets actually come into the series relatively healthy.
Point guard Chris Paul seemed to be the only player with any potential injury situation to watch. The future Hall of Famer wound up missing 24 games this season due to elbow tendinitis and a problematic hamstring. When he did play, D’Antoni limited Paul to exactly 32 minutes per game.
For anyone envisioning CP3 missing crucial stretches of close games due running into a minutes restriction, though — well, don’t get your hopes up.
D’Antoni quickly made it clear that “The Point Gawd,” as he was referred to in the Toyota Center, would not have any such limitations, at least early in the postseason.
“He can play more, especially in the first round when we have two or three days in between [games]. A little bit will depend on him — I don’t want to go too many minutes over,” D’Antoni said. “… If we have to, we have to — he’s ready to do it. We don’t play [again] ’til Wednesday, so we have a little more leeway. Later on, when you play every other day, you’ve gotta watch it a little more.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder, meanwhile, said Paul’s presence on the court can’t be overstated.
“I think Chris is probably a better coach than me,” Snyder said with a chuckle. “That’s not saying much about me — I’m trying to give him a compliment.”
D’Antoni was asked pregame if he expected the Jazz to do anything out of the ordinary to scheme for James Harden & Co., such as what the Milwaukee Bucks did in overplaying Harden on his left hip to force him to drive right and to minimize his step-back 3-point tries.
The Houston coach said he couldn’t envision it.
“Nothing out of the ordinary — we just have to see how they’re gonna guard certain plays, pick-and-rolls; maybe they’re gonna have something, but I doubt it,” he said. “Maybe they’ll tweak something, and then we’ll adjust to that. They’re the best in the league [defensively], so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”
Thing is, the Jazz did try the Bucks strategy in the first half, and couldn’t pull it off. Harden shot 7 of 14 overall (and 3 of 5 from deep) to total 17 points before the break. He also fed his teammates for seven assists, as Houston shot 48% overall and 40% from deep in racking up a 15-point first-half lead.