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James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets shoots a floater over Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz during the fourth quarter during Game One of the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center on April 14, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Jazz Try To Shade Harden, Rockets Star Still Dominates In Game 1

HOUSTON, Texas – In the first half of Game 1 against the Houston Rockets, the Utah Jazz implemented a strange-looking defensive strategy on Rockets superstar James Harden.

Knowing that Harden was a terrific left-handed player with an nearly unstoppable step back jumper, the Jazz had their defenders position themselves slighty behind him and to the side, which would force him to use his right hand and drive in the lane towards Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

It was not an effective strategy, to say the least.

The defensive approach could have been based on a successful strategy used by the Milwaukee Bucks against the Rockets. Twitter user Half Court Hoops outlined the methods used by the Bucks in a 108-94 Milwaukee victory on March 26.

Against the Jazz in Game 1 of the playoffs however, Harden was able to manipulate Utah’s approach. The biggest problem, frankly, was that the Jazz made it too easy for Harden to break into the paint. From there, he was able to either fake a shot and dump the ball off to a nearby teammate, in Sunday’s case it was usually center Clint Capela, or fire the ball off to the corner for an open look at a 3-pointer.

Harden Not Surprised By Jazz’s Strategy

After the game, Harden told the media that he wasn’t thrown off by Utah’s defensive scheme.

“I’m not surprised at anything,” said Harden, who led the NBA in scoring this season. “I’ve literally every defense you can possibly see so it’s just a matter of adjusting and continuing to communicate with the guys and what spot they need to be in and that’s pretty much it.”

Going into the matchup between Houston and the Jazz, it was expected that Harden would get his baskets. The issue in Game 1 however, was that too many other Rockets got involved when Utah put this defensive plan into action.

Harden finished with 29 points but also completed the double-double by dishing out 10 assists to his teammates, of which seven finished in double-figure scoring.

The Jazz made a halftime adjustment and basically scrapped the shading strategy on defense. It seemed to pay in the third quarter as Harden went just 2-for-9 with six points in that period. Unfortunately for Utah, Houston was just too much collectively and rolled to the victory outscoring Utah 39-19 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Next Up

The Jazz will have another crack at the Rockets in Game 2 on Wednesday. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and be broadcast on TNT.