James Harden posted his third career postseason triple-double, and the Houston Rockets recorded another rout of the visiting Utah Jazz, rolling to a 118-98 victory Wednesday in Game 2 of a Western Conference first-round series.
Harden totaled 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the wire-to-wire victory. After Utah utilized an unorthodox defensive approach against Harden in the series opener, Harden exploded for 25 first-half points Wednesday on 8-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-9 accuracy on 3-point attempts.
He finished 11 of 24 from the floor, 6 of 13 from long distance. Harden, However, did commit a game-high eight turnovers.
The Rockets will take a 2-0 series lead to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Saturday.
Houston led by as many as 28 points with Harden scoring and facilitating with equal aplomb in the first half, leaving Utah scrambling to cover both his perimeter sharpshooting and his court vision as Harden repeatedly found open teammates off his dribble penetration.
The Jazz didn't rely upon the extreme shading technique that served as the talking point from Game 1. Still, when Harden beat his defender off the dribble, he did so going to his right. With Utah center Rudy Gobert protecting the rim, Harden picked apart the Jazz defense instead.
Harden scored 17 points in the first quarter while adding four assists, three on 3-pointers from Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker (16 points apiece) and Danuel House Jr. When Harden drilled a step-back trey with 4:20 left in the first, the Rockets secured a 33-13 lead.
Utah labored to slice the deficit to 14 points, but Houston added five 3-pointers in the second period to continue the deluge. Harden sank back-to-back 3-pointers during that surge while Tucker opened 4 of 4 from deep.
The Jazz couldn't keep pace and closed the first half 4 of 22 from behind the arc. Houston shot 13 of 26 from 3-point range, before halftime, 17 of 42 on the night.
Utah wound up hitting just 8 of 38 3-point attempts.
Gordon and Tucker combined to shoot 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. Rockets center Clint Capela was a defensive force, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots while scoring seven points.
Ricky Rubio paired 17 points with nine assists for Utah while Gobert (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Derrick Favors (14 points, 12 boards) chipped in double-doubles. Royce O'Neal added 17 points.
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell continued his shooting woes, tallying just 11 points and hitting just 5 of 19 shots, 1 of 8 on 3-point tries. Mitchell was 7 of 18, 3 of 7 in the opening game.
--Field Level Media