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Yes, The Rockets Game Two Defense Was That Bad

A breakdown of how the Rockets defense broke down in game two

May 03, 2018 - 9:53 am
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By Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane)

In building a 27 point lead in the first half of their game one win over the Jazz Sunday, the Rockets played brilliant defense, holding Utah to 39 points in the game’s first 24 minutes, but that didn’t carry over. In Wednesday’s game two loss, the Rockets defense was non-existent, and that same Jazz team that couldn't even score 40 points in two quarters in game one put up 36 in the first quarter of game two in a 64 point first half. 

All of the things the Rockets did over the course of the regular season and in their first six playoff games disappeared for 24 minutes Wednesday and now the Rockets head to Salt Lake City needing a win this weekend in order to avoid having to face elimination next Tuesday at Toyota Center.

To be fair, the Jazz executed its offense brilliantly, but it met little resistance from the guys wearing the black uniforms. The Rockets played soft, they played lazy, and they basically played defense like a group playing together for the first time, and it started of the very first possession of the game.

The initial defense here is pretty good here. Trevor Ariza and James Harden successfully switch a Donovan Mitchell screen designed to spring Joe Ingles, but then things break down when Derrick Favors slips a screen and runs free down the middle of the lane. You’ll see this again, like on Utah’s very next trip down the floor.

Rockets wind up with two men on the ball, and there is simply no help defense, so Rudy Gobert has an easy path to the rim.

This time Clint Capela is out of position as Mitchell goes the opposite side of the Gobert screen. P.J. Tucker comes off Favors to help, but Harden strays way too far away from Ingles for a wide open 3. Don’t worry; we’ll see that one again too.

Hey Royce O’Neal, how about a nice stroll to the rim? Give Gobert credit for taking Capela out of the play, but still, the ball nearly sails over O'Neal's head, and he still winds up with a dunk.

As bad as the 64 point half was, it’s important to note that it could’ve been worse.

That should be an easy bucket for Gobert, but he simply can’t catch the pass. Notice how all these passes to Jazz center are high, taking advantage of his length, and the Rockets lack of size.

It took some time, but the Rockets finally figured out the slip screens, but this is where the lack of communication really showed.

Eric Gordon and Nene both go with Gobert, leaving Ingles wide open. The Rockets get lucky and Ingles misses the shot, still that’s just awful, as is this:

Luc Mbah a Moute does his job, but the other four players on the floor look clueless. Gerald Green can’t shake a Favors screen, while Gordon, Chris Paul, and Nene look absolutely lost. That should never happen, especially to a team loaded with veterans in the second round of the playoffs.

So far, we’ve only seen the Rockets halfcourt defense stumble, what about in transition?

Paul and Mbah a Moute shut down the initial break, but watch Green and Mbah a Moute after that. They both go to Raul Neto, leaving O’Neal wide open. Again, no communication, but hey, at least the Rockets figured out Utah’s slip screens, right?

Oh, maybe not, but there’s no way it happens again, I mean, it can’t happen again, can it?

Oh, I guess it can. By the way, watch Mike D’Antoni’s reaction from the bench. He’s sitting down, and as soon as Gobert goes up for the dunk he’s on his feet calling timeout, but the timeout didn't help much.

The Rockets did adjust as you can see here. Capela stays glued to Gobert, but I have no idea what Harden is thinking, fortunately for the Rockets, Ingles misses. He shot 7-of-9 from behind the arc, and both misses were wide-open looks that he got from awful defense.

Things got better in the second half as the Jazz went from 64 points on 56 percent shooting in the first half to 52 points on 47.5 percent shooting after halftime, but a lot of things have to go right in order to comeback from 19 points down, and Wednesday not enough of those things happened.