Spurs stun Nuggets in Game 1, take series lead

The Nuggets were limping into the playoffs … until they weren’t

The Nuggets were limping into the playoffs … until they weren’t

The Utah Jazz tried to force the left-handed James Harden to his right to make things more hard on him on Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

The Utah Jazz hope to tie this series up before heading up for game three.

Ricky Rubio started after missing four of the last five games of the regular season with a quadriceps injury. Donovan Mitchell has been leading the team with 23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Harden paired 29 points with 10 assists and finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double to fuel the Rockets to a 1-0 series lead.

It's the second consecutive year the teams have met in the post-season after the Rockets eliminated Utah in five games in the second round last season. The Utah Jazz are allowing 36.6 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 41 rebounds per game. Last season in a conference semifinal, the Rockets forced Gobert into switch after switch and made him guard the perimeter. Again, this is the playoffs and not much from the regular season carries over, but one thing the Rockets rarely do is let the first 12 minutes go by without getting a good offensive effort from Harden, who led the National Basketball Association in first quarter scoring at 9.6 points per first quarter - a full point better than any other player. Defensively, Houston is giving up 109.1 points per game while opponents shoot 46.6 percent against them and they hold foes to only 34 percent shooting from 3-point land.

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The Jazz are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven road games against a team with a winning home record and 20-5-1 ATS in their last 26 games following a loss.

These two split the season series, but Houston took the last two meetings.

The Nuggets can not afford to lose game 2 and go down 2-0 to a Gregg Popovich team before heading to San Antonio.

Shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc on 15 makes, the Rockets registered their second-biggest postseason win (32) in franchise history.

The win moved Popovich past Lenny Wilkens, who is in the Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. His three-point play at the 4:54 mark of the period extended the lead to 74-61 and, when Harden drilled a stepback 3-pointer with 3:09 left in the third, the Rockets reclaimed their 15-point lead. I think the Rockets and Harden will score at a pace that the Jazz just can't sustain, especially down the stretch.

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