Eagle: Jazz Have Best Home-Court Advantage

The Rockets could be in trouble against Utah

Taz and the Moose
May 03, 2018 - 10:42 am

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NBA on TNT analyst Ian Eagle has called games in six different NBA arenas this postseason, and one offered a better home-court experience than the rest.

“Right now, I would tell you that Salt Lake City is the best home-court advantage,” Eagle said on Taz & The Moose. “Obviously it got inside the end of Russell Westbrook. We saw two incidents – one at the end of the first half in Game 6 that eliminated them and then one at the end of the game. And look, this happens in every arena. Don’t get me wrong. In every arena, there are fans that really try to affect the visitor. Salt Lake City, I couldn’t hear Brent Barry next to me. We were staring at one another, and I realized during the open I was reading his lips. I literally at one point could not hear what he was saying based on the fact that this crowd, there’s a groundswell, they’re into it. They’ve always been into it, but they actually have a team right now that is really fun to root for. You saw it last night in Houston.”

Indeed, the Jazz stunned the Rockets, 116-108, on Wednesday to even their series at 1-1. Even more impressive? The Jazz won without Ricky Rubio, who is nursing a hamstring injury.

“Quin Snyder is similar to Brad Stevens: He just has the perfect touch with his group of guys,” Eagle said. “Tremendous system, they fit the right pieces in, he handled the transition without Hayward, without George Hill. They’ve made sneaky-good pickups by their GM, Dennis Lindsey, over the course of the season. They play with a chip on their shoulder, Everybody on that team seems to feel disrespected in some way – but not in a negative way. In a way that works very positively. There’s a lot of unity on that squad. Joe Ingles has been fantastic in these playoffs. They’re a really likable team, and their crowd has reacted accordingly.”

Ingles scored a team-high 27 points in Game 2, while Rudy Gobert had 15 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Star rookie Donovan Mitchell, meanwhile, had a tough shooting night – 6-of-21 – but still finished with 17 points and a game-high 11 assists.

“He’s special,” Eagle said. “Whatever concerns there were going from rookie regular season to rookie playoffs, he answered right away. I had Game 1 of that Oklahoma City series against Utah, and you could tell that he was really comfortable and none of this was affecting him adversely.”

And now the pressure resides squarely on Houston’s shoulders, especially as the series shifts to Utah for Games 3 and 4. 

“The same questions will pop up that James Harden has dealt with in his career and Chris Paul has dealt with in his career – and they’ll continue to pop up until there’s a breakthrough,” Eagle said. “There was supposed to be a collision course in the Western Conference of Houston and Golden State. The Warriors are taking care of their end of the bargain with New Orleans, but Houston is walking into a very, very tough setup with Salt Lake City.”

Games 3 and 4 are Friday and Sunday at 10:30 and 8 p.m. ET, respectively.

“Look, I expect Houston to find a way to win a game on the road here and then get back home 2-2 and this becomes a best two-out-of-three series,” Eagle said. “But you want to see if there’s any crippling effects from Game 2 that spill over into Game 3. This Utah squad, even without Ricky Rubio, they’ve got a lot of confidence, and there is a belief that they could do some special things this year.”