Houston Rockets v Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 27: PJ Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets plays defense against against the Utah Jazz on January 27, 2020 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Roundup — Utah Jazz fall flat against shorthanded Rockets

by Aaron Falk

The Houston Rockets were hardly recognizable. Three of the team’s biggest stars — James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela — were all sidelined with injuries on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Unfortunately, the Utah Jazz didn’t look like themselves either.

A Jazz team that had been rolling through opponents, winners of 19 of its last 21 games, stumbled against a shorthanded Houston squad, falling 126-117 in Salt Lake City.

“We weren’t as connected as we’ve been,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “We just had a lot of mistakes that were in many cases mental. We weren’t as focused and dialed in on all of the details of the game. … I don’t know that there’s a whole lot we did well tonight.”

Donovan Mitchell scored a team-high 36 points (14-of-25 FGs) and Bojan Bogdanovic had 30 points of his own.

Rockets guard Eric Gordon, meanwhile, did his best James Harden impression, scoring a career-high 50 points. And Houston’s switching defense and small-ball lineup caused the Jazz (32-14) plenty of problems, even with its biggest stars out of the lineup.

The Jazz trailed by 13 at halftime, but cut the lead down to six on back-to-back Bogdanovic 3s in the third quarter. But Gordon and Houston responded, pushing the lead quickly back to double-digits and cruising to their 29th win of the season.

“They threw the first punch and were playing catch up,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said. “We got out of our game because of the physicality and the switching. We tried to find a way in the second half, but it was a tough one.”

With a tough three-game road trip against Western Conference foes San Antonio, Denver and Portland up next, Mitchell was quickly ready to move on from Monday’s defeat.

“We weren’t expecting to paly perfect the rest of the year. There are going to be games like this,” he said. “The biggest thing is how we respond.”

Saturday's Best: Eric Gordon

Credit where credit’s due. Gordon was more than adequate filling in for the injured James Harden. The Rockets guard blistered the Jazz for 50 points (14-of-22 FGs, 16-of-20 FTs). The guard topped the 40-point mark for the second time in his career, besting the 41-point tally he notched way back in January of 2009. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists.

“He was doing what they were all doing: he was attacking early in transition,” Conley said. “He had it going and he had it going early. It’s tough to shut the water off on a guy like that when he gets hot.”

Highlights of the Night

Significant Stats

49

Even without Harden in the lineup, the Rockets lived at the foul line. Houston attempted a whopping 49 free throws on Monday—an NBA season high.

”They had how many?” Mitchell asked in disbelief after the game. “… We fouled. Wow. We were trying to keep guys in front of us and we committed silly fouls. Little things. And after a while that accumulates. We have to keep guys off the line. We haven’t [fouled like that] in a very long time. It’s uncharacteristic for us.”

26

Mike Conley is one of the game’s best when it comes to taking care of the basketball. But the point guard committed five of the Jazz’s 18 turnovers on Monday. The team’s giveaways led to 26 points for the Rockets.

”I can’t call it, man,” Conley said when asked about the cause of the turnovers. “They weren’t forced. Just trying to do things, just trying to see something and you go too quick and you slip. Random things were happening. That’s not like me. That’s not like Don. To have so many unforced turnovers, that was definitely a big factor in the game.”

Notable

There were tributes to the late Kobe Bryant all around Vivint Smart Home Arena on Monday night, one day after the NBA legend died in a tragic helicopter crash.

Fans covered the J-Note on the plaza with flowers, hats, jerseys, basketballs and handwritten notes.

For Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and his players, it was a somber night.

“I don’t think there’s a lot you can say,” Snyder said before tipoff. “Everybody understands the situation, and we have to move forward, as difficult as that may be.”

Jazz point guard Mike Conley had Bryant’s initials on the backs of his shoes. Jordan Clarkson, who played with Bryant in L.A., wore sneakers with Kobe’s two jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — and a message for his friend: “Rest in paradise, brother.”

The game started with the Jazz winning the tipoff and taking a 24-second shot clock violation in Bryant’s honor. The Rockets followed up by paying homage with an 8-second half-court violation.

Up Next

The Jazz head out on a three-game road trip. First stop: San Antonio. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. MT.

The team’s next home game is Feb. 5, when they host the Denver Nuggets.

Find Tickets

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter