Game 6 in 1997 still stings in the minds of many Rockets fans. Ever since then, the Jazz have had the number of the Rockets for years. The Jazz defeated their Houston rivals in 1998, 2007 and 2008 in first round series. But these aren’t the same Rockets and they aren’t the same Jazz.
Stockton, as least the old statue John Stockton, isn’t there to “send the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals” again. The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays or any other day anymore. The Rockets of TMac and the Jazz of D-Will are both forgotten in NBA lore after those notorious 4 vs 5 matchups a decade ago.
Houston has been taken over by the Dark Side and it looks like the evil Republic of Houston has gained some momentum over the good Jazz Jedis. It would take a noble performance to destroy this regime as an unsung five seed that few people predicted would be in the middle of a second round postseason war.
James Harden was once an innocent young player much like Anakin Skywalker was once an innocent young Jedi. He was more into pod racing and riding the coattails of Westbrook and Durant than he was about playing defense.
He then found the perfect mentor who also despised defense named Darth Hideous aka Senator D’Antoni. Mike was once a good looking dude until his mustache was burned off in a light saber battle. He now has encouraged Harden to grow a beard he never could. Harden is now known as Darth Beard or simply as The Beard.
Harden has recently learned a new lightsaber move and it has been in full force in the NBA Playoffs. He does the double flop where he flops at the exact same time to expose someone who was giving him a taste of his own medicine. After making it to the Finals with the Thunder and losing to Lord LeBron in the Finals, Harden decided that sharing the glory with the Thunder Republic wasn’t as satisfying as attaining his own glory.
A couple years later when Senator Mikey D saw the the troubled sole he responded “The Dark Side of basketball is a pathway to many possibilities. Let me show you the six seconds or less offense. Repeat after me. Fast break, euro step, crab dribble, pump fake, create contact, flop”. This resulted in many plays by the Rockets that didn’t look like basketball but scored them a lot of points.
With the Spurs gaining the victory over the Rockets last year it looked like San Antonio had the high ground and Harden was destined to burn. Harden found a new droid to co-reign over the NBA, CP3. Once a State Farm Insurance salesman with his nerdy brother droid Cliff, Chris Paul decided to use the Dark Side to get out of the dreaded second round, a feat that before he thought impossible with the great Coach Doc Rivers.
The Rockets did lose Game 2 on their home floor but responded by firing on all cylinders and taking advantage of costly Jazz errors. With Utah failing to implement simple battle techniques such as making layups, Darth Beard created more opportunities than ever before with his new adidas shoes.
The Rockets became ball hawks and this aggressive defensive tactic actually worked in the offensive D’Antoni system as the absence of Ricky Rubio finally allowed them to take risks. They also had a secret Plan D which was to play a Death Star Zone defense around Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell struggled for most of the game but managed to keep his double digit scoring streak alive with a few late threes. He was still better than Ben Simmons as a true rookie as Simmons scored only one point and went down 3-0.
With the Republic looking to maintain total power and the Jazz looking for anything to get back in this series they must focus on the movie worried quotes that have carried them along this season:
“The strength of our team is our team.” – Quin Snyder
“We will be fine.” – Rudy Gobert
“Let’s go!” – Donovan Mitchell
“Dante Exum, I am your father.” – Joe Ingles
Ok, maybe that last one wasn’t too motivating. But the Jazz will need rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell to return to form as he promised he would after the Game 3 defeat. The Jazz need A New Hope to lead Swatooine and Donovan must prove that he as only a rookie can do just that as he has all season long.