Evan Yu

The Roundup—Strong second half not enough to help Jazz in Houston

by Matt Payne

Just 36 hours after a dramatic series victory over the Thunder, the Utah Jazz came back down to earth Sunday afternoon with a 110-96 loss to the top-seeded Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Jazz trailed by as many as 25 before outscoring the Rockets 57-46 in the second half.

Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder led Utah with 21 points apiece, while Joe Ingles (15 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Rudy Gobert (11 points, nine rebounds) also scored in double figures in the loss.

The Jazz played without starting point guard Ricky Rubio, who suffered a hamstring injury early in Friday's victory over Oklahoma City. Rubio is considered day-to-day.

MVP favorite James Harden led all scorers with 41 points. Harden shot 12-for-26 from the field and 10-for-11 from the free-throw line, and he added eight rebounds and seven assists.

Chris Paul finished 17 points, six assists and four steals, while Clint Capela (16 points, 12 rebounds) and P.J. Tucker (15 points) also scored in double figures in the win.

Sunday's Best

Mitchell had another strong showing, scoring 20+ points for the seventh straight game and adding three rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes. With Rubio out, he took over Utah's primary ball-handling duties while also defending either Harden or Paul. Mitchell, who returned to the game after rolling his ankle midway through the fourth quarter, is now averaging 27.4 points per game in the playoffs.

Key Stretches

Houston went on 8-0 and 7-0 runs in the first quarter, but buckets by Mitchell (a 3-pointer and an acrobatic layup) and Crowder (two 3-pointers and an uncontested dunk) helped Utah stay within striking distance early on.

Houston, though, went on a 13-2 run between the first and second quarters to take an 18-point lead. Paul scored eight of those points and also dished out an assist during that stretch. The Rockets would push their lead to 25 by the end of the second quarter.

The Jazz played much better in the second half, opening the third quarter on a 13-8 run (thanks to a 3-pointer by Ingles, a transition layup by Royce O'Neale, a scooping layup by Mitchell, an alley-oop slam by Favors, and a driving layup by Alec Burks). Utah would outscore Houston 29-22 in the third period.

Utah kept things rolling early in the fourth quarter, opening the period on a 7-0 run to cut Houston's lead to 11. Crowder made his fourth three of the game, Raul Neto put in a tough transition layup, and Mitchell drove in for another layup. Harden scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to ice the game for Houston, though the Jazz still kept it competitive.

Significant Stats

+27

Led by Crowder (21 points), Utah's bench outscored Houston's reserves 40-13. Danté Exum scored nine points, while Burks finished with six points, six rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes. Neto shot 2-for-2 from the field for four points.

17

The Rockets did what they did all season long—fire away from deep. Houston shot 17-for-32 (53.1 percent) from beyond the arc, with Harden (7-or-12), Tucker (3-for-5) and Paul (3-for-6) leading the way. The Rockets averaged a league-leading 15.3 3-pointers per game this season, nearly three more than the second-place Nets (12.7).

50

The Jazz (50.0 percent) actually shot the ball better than the Rockets (45.1 percent), but Utah made only seven 3-pointers and shot only 13-for-22 (59.1 percent) from the free-throw line.

Coach's Quote of the Night

"We weren't quite comfortable [without Rubio]. Everybody's gotta get more connected and we have to try to get the ball to the basket."

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Notable

Crowder shot 5-for-7 from 3-point range. ... Houston is now 5-0 against Utah this season. ... The Jazz outscored the Rockets 56-36 in the paint. ... Utah scored 22 points off of Houston's 15 turnovers. ... O'Neale, who started in place of Rubio, snagged a team-high four steals. ... The Jazz shot 58.5 percent in the second half. ... Gobert did not register his first field goal attempt until he made a dunk with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter.

Up Next

The Jazz will stay in Houston for Game 2 against the Rockets on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 6:00pm MT and the game will be broadcast nationally on TNT.