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The Roundup—Jazz falter down the stretch against Houston

by Matt Payne

This one feels like a missed opportunity.

The Jazz jumped out to a double-digit lead early on, but the league-best Rockets came roaring back to hand Utah a 96-85 loss Monday night in Salt Lake City.

Houston outscored Utah 57-41 in the second half.

Rudy Gobert finished with 17 points and six rebounds for the Jazz (31-30), while Donovan Mitchell (16 points), Ricky Rubio (14 points) and Jae Crowder (12 points) also scored in double figures in the loss.

Jonas Jerebko (two points, eight rebounds) had a team-best net rating of +13 in 17 minutes off the bench.

James Harden led all scorers with 26 points, and he added 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals (and seven turnovers) in 35 minutes.

Chris Paul chipped in 15 points, six rebounds and six assists, and veteran Luc Mbah a Moute scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for Houston (47-13).

Monday's Best

There were a handful of growing pains in this game (cough, eight turnovers, cough, cough) but Mitchell stood out for the Jazz as the primary shot creator against a savvy Houston defense. Utah's rookie shot 6-for-15 from the field (including a rough 1-for-9 from beyond the arc) and added two rebounds, four assists and three steals in a team-high 37 minutes.

Key Stretches

The Jazz got off to a lethargic start, but Royce O'Neale came off the bench and made an immediate impact. The rookie chased down Harden and poked away a steal before taking the ball the other way and throwing an alley-oop to Favors for a dunk. He then promptly stole the inbounds pass. A minute later, O'Neale was guarding Harden on the perimter and avoided Harden's attempt to draw a foul, forcing the All-Star to throw up a wild air ball (much to the delight of the crowd). The Jazz trailed 14-7 when O'Neale entered the game, but after Favors' dunk, a three-point play by Jerebko, an alley-oop dunk by Gobert (off another pass from O'Neale), and a layup and 3-pointer by Crowder, the Jazz had taken a 19-16 lead.

The Jazz kept things rolling in the second quarter, starting the period on an 8-0 run. Crowder drilled another three and Alec Burks put in two buckets—a twisting layup and a corner three—to put Utah up 29-19 and force a Houston timeout. The Jazz would push their lead to as many as 15 midway through the second quarter.

From that point on, though, it was all Houston. The Rockets closed the first half on a 10-0 run to cut Utah's lead to five at the break. Houston caught fire from beyond the arc in the third quarter, with Harden connecting on a three and Trevor Ariza knocking down three 3-pointers to give the Rockets a two-point lead. They would extend that lead to seven by the end of the third quarter. Utah shot 6-for-18 (33.3 percent) from the field during the third period.

The Jazz got a little something going midway through the fourth quarter, cutting Houston's lead from 11 to five thanks to an alley-oop dunk by Gobert, a nifty pull-up in the lane by Mitchell and a corner three by Ingles (his first made shot of the game). A missed 3-pointer by Crowder and an immediate make by Mbah a Moute, though, pushed Houston's lead back to 10 and quieted the crowd. Mbah a Moute added eight more points down the stretch to seal the win for the Rockets.

Significant Stats

22

Utah simply couldn't keep the ball, turning it over 22 times (which resulted in 20 Rockets points). The Jazz scored only 10 points off of Houston's 16 turnovers.

0

Despite their turnovers, the Jazz were able to hold Houston to zero transition points.

24.1

The Jazz started the game shooting 5-for-11 from 3-point range ... and then went ice cold. They finished 7-for-29, with wide-open misses by Jerebko, Crowder and Ingles during a critical stretch in the third quarter.

Coach's Quote of the Night

"We had a lot of turnovers that were just careless. I think a lot of that, if they're unforced like that, is us needing to be mentally tougher."

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Notable

The Jazz currently sit 2.5 games behind Denver for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. ... Houston has now won 13 straight games. ... Clint Capela (illness), Eric Gordon (illness) and Ryan Anderson (hip) did not play for the Rockets. ... Raul Neto (ankle) missed his second straight game for the Jazz. ... Utah shot only three free throws in the first half and 19 in the second half. Overall, the Jazz were 16-for-22 (72.7 percent) from the line. ... Former Jazz forward Joe Johnson scored seven points on 3-for-6 shooting in 30 minutes off the bench for the Rockets.

Up Next

The Jazz will have a few days off before they host the Timberwolves on Friday. Tipoff is set for 8:30pm MT and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

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