James Harden is the lead MVP candidate after making a Houdini like disappearing act against the Spurs in the second round of last year’s playoffs. How would a Spurs team without Tim Duncan do that though?
Oh you’d need a savvy coach, someone who can score and guard your best player. A rim protector would also be nice. Role players would need to have career best seasons.
Wait a minute, are we not talking about the Utah Jazz here? Quin Snyder is in the coaching tree of Gregg Popovich. Donovan Mitchell is Kawhi Leonard. Rudy Gobert is Pau Gasol 3.0. Ricky Rubio learned how to shoot the basketball at least as good as Ginóbili and Joe Ingles has become a better shooter from three than Danny Green was against LeBron in the Finals many years ago.
So, why count the Jazz out now? They just beat a team that had 3 star caliber guys. They might be better “on paper” than the Rockets. But fans saw last year what the Jazz did to Chris Paul in the playoffs when he was on the Clippers. What would be the recipe for victory besides to keep doing what they are doing? Here is the secret sauce that will create a smorgasbord of playoff victories to come if the Jazz execute it perfectly:
1. Steal a game on the road: Unless the Pelicans and Jazz advance to the Conference Finals, the Jazz will at some point have to win a road game in every series they possibly face in the West. They were able to do it in Oklahoma City in Game 2 but it was close. Time is short so they need to prepare starting this morning if they want to steal a game in Houston starting tomorrow.
2. Mix in some saltiness: The regular season awards aren’t out yet but the Jazz should still play with chips on their shoulders. Rudy you were really drafted 27th? You aren’t a DPOY. Mitchell you aren’t as good of a Rookie of the Year candidate as Ben Simmons. Ingles and Royce, you guys were undrafted. Do you really deserve to be key ingredients to the success of the Jazz? It’s time to prove the world wrong.
3. Blend the offense together until it flows perfectly out of the pitcher: The Jazz offense sputtered in Game 6. There can’t be that many careless turnovers against a speedy Houston team led by the 3 seconds or less D’Antoni offense. It will be the best defense against the best offense in the NBA but if the Jazz dribble off their foot one too many times the Rockets will eventually make them pay. They have the same star power as OKC but the difference is they have learned to make it mesh well. The Jazz will need to be ready to create shots to keep up.
3. Bake the Rockets into intimidated little kids: Make James Harden a shell of himself. Get in their heads. Confuse CP3 more than the C3PO droid in Star Wars. Make every player not named Paul and Harden irrelevant.
Bottom Line: It will be a tougher task but this Jazz team has proven that the sky is the limit. The prediction? Jazz in 7 if they stick to this recipe that Houston is allergic to in the playoffs.