James Harden Drops 29 as Rockets Cruise to Blowout Win vs. Jazz in Game 1
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 14: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Utah Jazz during Game One of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 14, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

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James Harden posted 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds as the No. 4 seed Houston Rockets beat the No. 5 Utah Jazz 122-90 in Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series on Sunday.

Clint Capela added 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 14 points and seven assists.

Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

     

Jazz Must Ditch Scheme, Defend James Harden Straight Up

Defending Harden is a near-impossible task for any team, and the Jazz were no exception on Sunday.

Utah either doubled or shaded Harden to his right, but the strategies were unsuccessful, as Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic pointed out:

The left-hander posted 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting and seven assists after 24 minutes.

When he wasn’t scoring, he was finding his teammates, as Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune noted:

If the lane was clogged, Harden found Tucker in the corner for threes:

Bijani explained why Tucker found himself open frequently:

If the paint was open, Harden found Capela for lob dunks:

If Harden took it upon himself to score, he did:

Utah’s defense wasn’t necessarily a bad idea in theory. It’s worked for the Milwaukee Bucks:

However, Mike Prada of SB Nation offered a theory as to why it worked for the Bucks and not the Jazz:

Perhaps the Jazz make some slight adjustments and give the strategy another chance, but they may be better off employing Tony Jones of The Athletic’s idea:

Ultimately, the Jazz lost by 32 on a night where the Rockets shot a pedestrian 36.6 percent from three-point range. That’s not a good sign, and significant adjustments are clearly needed.

                        

What’s Next?

Houston will host Utah in Game 2 on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

      

This article will be updated to provide more information soon.

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