After getting hit in the mouth at the start of games, Jazz say it’s time to beat Rockets to the punch

Houston Rockets' Chris Paul, left, battles for a loose ball with Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio during the second half of Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Houston, Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Two times in a row, the Rockets have taken it to the Jazz in the early moments of the game.

That can’t happen in Game 3, the Jazz said at Friday’s practice at Zions Bank Basketball Campus, if they’re going to have any chance of winning.

“Both games, from the jump, they’ve kind of come out and, not tried to punk us, but just be on the front foot a bit more. … We knew they were going to to do that, and obviously we weren’t ready for it,” said Joe Ingles. “We need need to be ready for Game 3 because they’re going to come out with the same mentality. They’ve got nothing to lose — they’re up 2-0 and they’re on our court now. We’ve got to come out with a more aggressive and focused mindset than we have.”

Donovan Mitchell noted that Houston “just out-toughed us, really,” while Kyle Korver said Utah’s players “need to bring a higher level of physicality, urgency, all those things.”

Coach Quin Snyder said it’s no surprise the Rockets have started hard and fast, considering they’ve done that all season long. The question now becomes what the Jazz choose to do about it.

“They’re the best first-quarter team in the NBA. And so it’s more about being able to take a punch and get up than it is that you’re gonna get hit,” he said. “It’s gonna happen; it’s just how you react to it.”

The Jazz all acknowledge they’ve reacted poorly thus far.

Mitchell lamented the opening possessions of Game 2, pointing out that early turnovers, defensive miscues, and silly decisions in the early going basically made the difference: “Yeah, that first burst they had, the first five, six minutes, we kind of stepped back. We were down by 20 [at the end of the first quarter], and we lost the game by 20, so it kind of shows the rest of the game was pretty solid. So now it’s a matter of not spotting them 20 points. That’s really what it is.”

Given that, Korver added, it becomes all the more imperative to start this next game off the right way.

“The first five minutes are important,” he said. “We’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to set the tone.”

The key, in Snyder’s view, is that all the details and minutiae don’t matter if there’s not corresponding effort.

The Rockets have had it early. The Jazz haven’t. And they need to get back to it.

“Aggressiveness isn’t something that someone serves you for dinner; it’s exactly the opposite — it’s you get hungry,” Snyder said. “That’s been who we are, and that just has to be a focal point regardless of anything we’re doing collectively or tactically. Competitiveness is the key element in anything that you do.”

It’s not a matter of matching Houston’s intensity, he added. The Jazz need to surpass it.

“I don’t care what we were trying to do, we didn’t play hard enough. I want us to look at the guy in front of you — are you going to play harder than him?” Snyder said. “That’ll take you a long way.”

Maybe that can make the difference in Game 3. Then again, even that might not be enough.

The point is, Korver said, without it, the Jazz don’t stand a chance. They know they haven’t done what they’ve needed to yet. And they don’t want to go out without showing everyone what they’re really all about.

“We’ve just got to put together a game that we feel good about. I don’t think we feel good about the first two games — we haven’t played like us; this is not who we are,” Korver said. “We have to come here and have a game where we feel like we play how we’re capable of playing, execute how we’ve executed all year, really, and we can live with those results.”


All Times Mountain

Game 1 • Houston 122, Utah 90

Game 2 • Houston 118, Utah 98

Game 3 • Saturday at Vivint Arena, 8:30 p.m.


Game 4 • Monday at Vivint Arena, 8:30 p.m.


Game 5 • Wednesday at Houston, TBD*


Game 6 • April 26 at Vivint Arena, TBD*


Game 7 • April 28 at Houston, TBD*


* If necessary