Photo by Russell Isabella/USA Today

Despite Harden's Cold-Shooting, Rockets Take 3-0 Series Lead

Harden misses his first 15 shots, but Rockets win 104-101

April 21, 2019 - 1:42 am

Even though James Harden missed his first 15 shots, the Rockets lead their Western Conference first round series 3-0 after beating the Utah Jazz 104-101 Saturday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Harden shot just 3-of-20 from the field, but still finished with 22 points, four rebounds, 10 assists and six steals. His first made basket of the night came with 7:34 left in the fourth quarter when he finished a fastbreak with a one-handed dunk, putting the Rockets up 86-83. On the Rockets next possession he connected on a 29-foot step-back three-pointer to double the Rockets advantage, but the Jazz scored the next five points, though they could never pull even.

Chris Paul ended that 5-0 run with layup, and after Donovan Mitchell's floater made it a one point game again, Eric Gordon connected from long distance with 2:32 left on the clock.  On the Rockets next possession, Harden answered Ricky Rubio's layup by making a pair of free throws, but Mitchell made it a one point game again when he hit from deep, but Harden answered with the shot clock winding down. Utah never got closer than two the rest of the night. Harden missed a triple with 13.1 seconds to play, but P.J. Tucker ran down the offensive rebiound. He split two free throws and the Jazz had the ball with a chance to tie, but Mitchell missed a wide open three.

Mitchell led all scorers with 34 points, but shot just 9-of-27 from the field, 3-of-14 in the second half.

Paul finished with 18 points, while Tucker and Gordon scored a dozen.

The Jazz scored the game's first eight points, but Paul's three with 26.6 seconds left brought the Rockets within two after 12 minutes. Gerald Green gave Houston its first lead of the night when he connected from three on the first possession of the second quarter. The lead changed hands three more times in the first 90 seconds of the quarter, and Paul's three with 1:19 left in the half tied the game at 50, but Utah scored the last five points of the quarter to take a 55-50 lead into the locker room. 

Utah led by as many as six in the third quarter, but eight missed free throws allowed the Rockets to remain in the game, and they closed to within two when the fourth quarter started.

The Rockets will go for the sweep, their first in a best-of-seven series since the 1995 Finals, when they take on the Jazz in game four Monday night.