• Print
Thursday March 1, 2012 0:01 AM

Rockets Off-Key In Loss To Jazz

Utah pulls away in second half, cruises to 104-83 win over Houston

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Playing in Salt Lake City on the second night of a back-to-back is always an arduous, difficult and exceptionally challenging exercise in endurance and willpower. The flight from Houston is long, the altitude has a way of making those weary legs feel even heavier, and the Jazz are just a flat-out better team when playing in front of their home fans.

So there were plenty of reasons, excuses and explanations available to the Rockets following their humbling 104-83 defeat in Utah Wednesday night.

To their credit, they accepted none of them.

The Jazz were quite simply the superior squad from the second quarter on, trouncing the Rockets in nearly every statistical category. They dominated the glass, pounded Houston inside and outraced the Rockets up and down the floor at every opportunity.

Could fatigue have played a factor in Houston’s poor play given the fact the Rockets were coming off a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire win over Toronto fewer than 24 hours prior to tip time against the Jazz? It certainly couldn’t have helped. But either way, neither the players nor the coaches in Houston’s postgame locker room had any interest in sugarcoating the effort given or the end result.

“We didn’t play hard enough and that’s the bottom line,” said Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale. “You know what, you can find a lot of reasons why, but we didn’t play hard enough. They just played harder than we did.”

The perplexing part of the equation is that the Rockets actually started the game looking strong. They outscored Utah 18-8 in the paint and 26-18 overall through the first quarter. Luis Scola, one of the lone bright spots for the club Wednesday, looked especially sharp, taking advantage of Paul Millsap’s injury absence to post 12 points and 5 rebounds in the opening period alone. Certainly at that point, few could have predicted the reversal of fortune about to ensue.

The turn of the tide occurred almost as soon as the second quarter started when, suddenly, the Rockets’ shots simply stopped falling. The team got plenty of open looks, be they layups or long-range opportunities, but seemed completely incapable of coaxing anything to make its way through the hoop. As the missed piled up, Utah’s transition attack kicked into high gear, repeatedly leaving the Rockets in their wake. By halftime, the Jazz had assumed the lead and control of the game, setting the tone for what was to come in the second half.

Sure enough, the third quarter simply brought more of the same as Utah’s procession to the paint continued to meet little to no resistance from the Rockets. McHale desperately searched for someone, anyone to give his club a spark, but outside of Scola and Goran Dragic, the Rockets’ roster seemed to possess no answers. Even the typically reliable Kyle Lowry struggled, committing eight of the club’s 15 turnovers on the night.

The rest of the gory details: Houston hit less than 40 percent of its shots from the field for the second night in a row, got outrebounded (50-34) for the eighth consecutive game, and was outscored 50-18 in the paint from the second quarter on.

But at the end of the night, those numbers were not the primary source of Scola’s postgame frustration. Fatigue, off night, bad day at the office – call it what you will. What Scola found unacceptable was the feeling that his club had given in instead of digging deep to fight until the bitter end.

“It was quite obvious at some point in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter we decided that this was a game we weren’t playing good and we weren’t going to win the game,” he said. “We let them get rebounds, we let them run and get dunks and you just can’t let that happen.

“We’ve just got to keep playing. There’s no reason in the world why we should stop playing. This is our job and if we’re losing, we’re losing – big deal. But we’ve just got to keep fighting and playing hard. And if we lose, we lose. I don’t care about losing; I care about not playing hard all the way to the end. We just cannot let that happen.

“We need to find a way to match that intensity every game. We’re going to play bad some games and we’re going to lose some games, but we’re going to play the right way every game all the way through the end of the season.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

On the game: “They just played harder than we did, they got offensive rebounds, they made some shots. Miles went off on us and we had no answers for that tonight.”

On shooting well in the first quarter: “We didn’t play hard enough and that’s the bottom line and, you know what, you can find a lot of reasons why but we didn’t play hard enough. They played harder than we did.

KYLE LOWRY

They really pushed the ball in transition. We knew that they get after it at home and they really showed tonight that they played their pace at home. They definitely played with the desperation they needed to get the win tonight and they go it.

It’s very disappointing but we have to bounce back. We can’t dwell on it. We stick with it, we learn from it, probably get a quick film session tomorrow and get back at it Friday against a tough team.

It’s just effort. Everybody’s got to get in there and we’ve got to be a little bit tougher. We’ve got to get in there and just battle it out. There’s not much more you can say than that.

It definitely felt like we got outworked tonight. They played with the intensity and tenacity that a desperate team (has) coming off a four-game losing streak and wanted to win.

LUIS SCOLA

We cannot just in the third quarter decide that we’re not going to win the game and just let them do whatever they want. We’ve got to fight our way to the end and if we lose, we lose; we take our plane, go back home and play the next one. But we’ve got to fight. We have to lose playing all the way to the end.

It was quite obvious at some point in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter we decided that this was a game we weren’t playing good and we weren’t going to win the game. We let them get rebounds, we let them run and get dunks and you just can’t let that happen.

We’ve just got to keep playing. There’s no reason in the world why we should stop playing. This is our job and if we’re losing, we’re losing – big deal. But we’ve just got to keep fighting and playing hard. And if we lose, we lose. I don’t care about losing; I care about not playing hard all the way to the end. We just cannot let that happen.

We need to find a way to match that intensity every game. We’re going to play bad some games and we’re going to lose some games, but we’re going to play the right way every game all the way through the end of the season.

UTAH JAZZ HEAD COACH TYRONE CORBIN

On the change in the game near the end of the first half: “Our defense picked up a little bit. We did a great job on the pick and roll. They tried to get a little physical with us and we matched that and, actually took it up a level. As a result of our defense picking up, our offense was a lot more fluid.”

On ending the losing streak: “It’s a great win for us. We talked about, at the beginning of the year, not having losing streaks of three
games or more. This is the first one this year for us. We don’t want to have any more of those losing streaks. We want to make sure we take care of our business.”

On the play of C.J. Miles: “Tremendous lift for us. When we get scoring from the perimeter guys…it makes our offense flow a lot better. As long as we continue to get guys making shots, we’re in good shape. C.J. did a good job for us tonight.”

C.J. MILES

On the game: “We just came out aggressive and played hard. That’s the biggest thing. We were able to make some shots. We just knew we had to find a way to step on a team’s throat. We get a lead, or when it’s close and tonight we were able to do that. When they closed it down to 10 we got in a little huddle and said ‘we’ve got to close the game out,’ and then we got a few stops in a row.“

On scoring a season-high: “I was just trying to be aggressive was my biggest thing. Just keep playing. I’ve got to put in a lot of work, just stay ready so when I get those minutes. We’ve had a couple of injuries, so I was able to stay on the floor a little longer. The biggest thing is to keep playing in the flow of the game and it’s going to come.”

Got a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman. And for up to the second news and injury updates follow the Rockets and Jason on Twitter.