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Rockets Know They Must Be Better As Series Moves To Utah

Rockets weren't happy with their game two defense

April 19, 2019 - 1:55 pm

It'd be easy for the Rockets to be satisfied. After winning game one against the Jazz Sunday by 32, they came back Wednesday night and won by 20 in a game they never trailed, but prior to heading north for Saturday's game three in Salt Lake City, they agree they can and must improve.

"We gotta play better, Rockets foward P.J. Tucker said Friday. "There's no need, we got too if we feel like we want to keep playing well.

Yes, the Rockets held the Jazz to under 40 percent shooting, and yes, the Rockets limited Utah to 21 percent from behind the 3-point line, but it's not like they played smothering defense for 48 minutes. 

"That second game wasn't good enough," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It was more that they were missing shots, and we need to hone in on what we do and not get complacent and be aggressive, meaning, being aggressive is getting into people, make them feel us and make our presence felt, and if we don’t do that, well, then we risk losing, and we have to understand that concept."

During the regular season, the Jazz shot 38.6 percent on wide open three-pointers, where there isn't a defender within six feet of the shooter. Utah shot 5-of-26 on those shots Wednesday night. To make things worse, the Jazz shot just 2-of-9 on three-pointers classified as "open", meaning the closest defender was within four-to-six feet away, so in total, of the Jazz's 38 attempts from long distance, 35 were open or wide open looks.

"We need to play better defensively," Tucker said. "We didn't get into the ball as good as we should have. Our communication wasn't as good as it should've been. I can go on and on.”

D'Antoni gave his players the day off Thursday, so when the team reconvened Friday, the day started with a film session. That allowed the Rockets coach to highlight the issues, but Rockets guard Eric Gordon said he didn't need to watch the film to know his team's defense wasn't as good as it needed to be.

"You saw it during the game the other day. We know we made a couple of bad communications (mistakes) on defense, but at least we know what it is, and it's time to be corrective and just be aggressive and contest every shot.