Melissa Majchrzak

The Roundup—Jazz struggle early in blowout loss to Rockets

by Matt Payne

Coming off a series-tying win in Houston on Wednesday, the Jazz got off to a sluggish start and never got back in the game, falling to the Houston Rockets 113-92 Friday night in Salt Lake City.

Houston now leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Sunday night.

Royce O'Neale led the Jazz with 17 points, while Rudy Gobert finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes.

Donovan Mitchell struggled through one of his worst games in recent memory, scoring only 10 points on 4-for-16 shooting. Mitchell added one rebound and three assists in 31 minutes.

Alec Burks came off the bench to score 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting in the loss.

Utah played without starting point guard Ricky Rubio (hamstring) for the third straight game.

Eric Gordon caught fire with 25 points off the bench (after scoring only 22 points on 5-for-22 shooting the first two games combined). Gordon averaged 18.0 points per game during the regular season.

James Harden scored 25 points and dished out 12 assists, while Chris Paul (15 points), Clint Capela (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, four blocks) and Trevor Ariza (11 points) also scored in double figures for the Rockets.

Friday's Best

O'Neale, who started in place of Rubio for the third straight game, was Utah's most consistent player. He shot 7-for-10 from the field, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, and added five rebounds and one assist in 29 minutes. O'Neale's 17 points were two short of his career high, which he set on Valentine's Day against the Suns.

Key Stretches

Joe Ingles opened the game up with a three, but Houston countered with a quick 10-0 run. After a bucket by Derrick Favors, the Rockets extended that lead to 19-5 within the first six minutes of the game ... and then to 32-12 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter, effectively taking the capacity crowd out of the game. Houston shot a scorching 69.6 percent (16-for-23) to open the game.

After 17 minutes of struggle, the Jazz (finally) opened it up with a 9-0 run—thanks in large part to O'Neale. The rookie scored seven consecutive Utah points (on a pull-up three and two coast-to-coast driving layups) to cut Utah's deficit to 15 (from 24) and force a Houston timeout.

The Rockets, though, quickly pushed their lead back to 23 behind a dunk by Capela and 3-pointers by Harden and Gordon. Houston would take a 30-point cushion into halftime and then push that lead to as many as 38 en route to the blowout victory. So here are a few of Utah's top plays from the second half.

Significant Stats

16

The Jazz committed six turnovers in the first quarter and 11 in the first half, which led to 17 Houston points as the Rockets built their big lead. Overall, Utah turned the ball over 16 times and forced only nine Houston turnovers.

21.9

The Jazz shot 41.7 percent from the field, and only 36.6 percent in the first half. Mitchell (4-for-16), Ingles (2-for-10) and Jae Crowder (1-for-6) combined to shoot only 21.9 percent.

Coach's Quote of the Night

"I don't think anyone did their job defensively, and it showed. We were porous."

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Notable

Favors left the game midway through the third quarter with a left ankle sprain and did not return. ... Former Jazz forward Joe Johnson played the final four minutes for Houston, scoring two points on 1-for-3 shooting. ... The Jazz outrebounded the Rockets 43-41 and outscored them 12-6 on second-chance points. ... Houston outscored Utah 20-10 in transition points after finishing with just five in Game 2. ... David Stockton and Tony Bradley each scored for the Jazz in the closing minutes.

Up Next

The Jazz will stay at home for Game 4 against the Rockets on Sunday night. Tipoff is set for 6:00pm MT and the game will be broadcast nationally on TNT.