So, in the annals of demoralizing playoff defeats, where is this one ranked?
* Somehow, you manage to induce the best player of your opponent, the reigning Kia MVP of the league and a new-born scoring champion, with the highest average of the league in 32 seasons, to block his first 15 shots, establishing a playoff record for uselessness.
* That same player commits his fourth foul with 20:28 remaining in the game, while his only teammate who can always create for himself and others, wins his fifth with 13:26 remaining.
* Oh yes, you're playing at home, in front of one of the most rabid crowds in the league.
And yet, somehow, with the advantages that you would happily pay for several months of gambling revenue by trying to ignore a 2-0 deficit, you … lose?!?!?
Such is the extent of the injuries that the Jazz will have to lick before Game 4 on Tuesday, as they badyze how the Rockets managed to escape with a 104-101 victory that, if the history of the NBA serves as a guide, guarantees their advance . to the second round to 3-0.
As the big players usually do, Harden still had a big impact, finishing with 22 points despite throwing a miserable 3-of-20 from the field. (Not only did he set the aforementioned record for most consecutive fouls at any point in a playoff game, his 15.0 shot percentage was the third worst of his career when he received at least 15 shots).
Harden insisted after the game, he had no idea that he was filming so badly, and his production in the fourth quarter backs him up. Attacking the Jazz at every opportunity, he represented 22 of Houston's 30 points in the period, scoring 14 and badisting in eight more, while the Rockets held against almost all odds.
Your first cube? A pin with less than eight minutes left:
He followed up with a pair of 3-pointers, including a break at 1:11 after Jazz star Donovan Mitchell reduced Utah's deficit to one with 3 of his own.
"That's James Harden," said jazz coach Quin Snyder. "It's so good in the end, you give yourself a very small margin (if the game is close)."
Combined with a great defense, good ball safety, wide support (led by 18 points of the harbaded Chris Paul, another five Rockets scored in double figures) and a nightmare night for Mitchell (18 field goals lost, one more than Harden) . ), it was enough for the Rockets to escape.
"Just keep shooting," Harden said of his mentality. "My job is to go out and produce and be in attack mode, nothing changes (in 0-15)."
Paul said: "At the end of the day, it's winning the game, it does not matter what you shot, we won the game."
Intestinal check in the city of Álamo
Just like the championship races have become a rite of early summer in San Antonio, the early departures in Denver also. When the Nuggets made the playoffs, they did it this season for the first time since 2013.
That was the last of 10 consecutive postseason appearances for the Nuggets. All but one resulted in first-round outings, and two of them came after they squandered the advantage of the court in the first two games.
Then, with a strong sense of déjà vu, perhaps even inevitably, the Nuggets quickly stumbled out of the gates once again with a 101-96 loss to the Spurs in the opening game of their first-round series. That put them in the unenviable position of needing to win their first game of any kind in San Antonio since 2012, a stretch of 13 straight losses, and their first place in the playoffs since 2007, when the team was anchored by Allen Iverson. and Carmelo Anthony. .
Attempt No. 1 failed with a loss of 10 points in Game 3 that was not so close. But with a 3-1 deficit looking them in the face, the Nuggets found some nerves, shaking both their pitiful history and a slow start to beat the Spurs by 26 in the last three quarters for a major. Victory 117-103 in Game 4.
Even with the advantage of the restored home court, they still have a lot of work to do if they hope to advance. But the maturity and composure shown by Nikola Jokic and company on Saturday indicate that these Nuggets, unlike many of their predecessors, could really be prepared for that challenge.