HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 17: Head Coach Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz speaks to the media after Game Two of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets on April 17, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

'It's how you respond': Utah Jazz want more toughness and a strong start in Game 3 against the Houston Rockets

by Aaron Falk

After a pair of bruising losses in Houston, perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder had boxing on his mind at practice on Friday morning.

Asked about Donovan Mitchell’s promise to be more aggressive when the Jazz and Rockets meet for Game 3 on Saturday night, Snyder wanted his star guard to think like a prizefighter.

“There’s a fine line between just swinging and boxing,” the coach said. “He’s got to throw punches, but they’ve got to be well placed and well timed and some of them have to be counters.”

Asked about dealing with James Harden and the Rockets blitzes to start the first two games of this first-round series, Snyder again went to the ring.

“They’re the best first-quarter team in the NBA,” he said. “It’s more about being able to take a punch and being able to get back up. You’re going to get hit. It’s how you respond.”

And, this time, Snyder wants his team to get up and fight.

"Aggressiveness isn’t something that someone serves you for dinner; it’s exactly the opposite — it’s being hungry,” he said. “That’s been who we are, and that just has to be a focal point regardless of anything we’re doing tactically."

Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver all spoke to reporters on Friday—and each one stressed the importance of the first five minutes of Game 3 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

“The playoffs is a game of mental toughness,” the veteran Korver said. “I think we need to walk into the game and show them that we’re here and we’re here to play. We need to bring a higher level of physicality, urgency, all of those things. This is an important game, obviously, and we need to go out there and play like it.”

The Jazz trail 2-0 after playing two games at Toyota Center in Houston. But they know they will have 18,000-plus screaming Jazz fans behind them on Saturday night.

 “The crowd’s going to be amazing,” Korver said. “There are a lot of arenas that are full, especially in the playoffs when everyone’s feeling it. But there are only a few arenas that are rowdy. The crowd’s going to be there and it’s going to be special. We have to feed off it.

“… The crowd’s going to do their part. That’s what I know. We’ve got to do ours.

Mitchell was upset with himself after a loss in Game 2 of this series.

“Obviously, you can't get any lower than the effort and the performance that I gave,” he said. “You can only get better from there. That’s pretty much where I’m at. Just taking it one step at a time, one play at a time.”

One metaphorical punch at a time.

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