Make no mistake about it, this was a measuring stick game for the Jazz tonight. After getting blasted(pun intended) off the court by the Houston Rockets the last time these teams met; the Jazz needed to show progress in order to maintain the excitement that is starting to build amongst the fan base. I know it's just one game in December but this game felt slightly like a playoff game. Maybe it was just the fact that it was on TNT or maybe it was because of the memories of beating the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul, now of the Houston Rockets. Speaking of the Rockets, something is different about them this year. In years past they haven't struck a lot of fear into the heart of their opponents, but there is definitely a different feel and a swagger about them this year. I am not declaring that they are going to beat the Warriors already but they are the real deal this year and if I were the Warriors, or anything other team for that matter, I would not want to see them this coming May or June.
This game started out with some noticeable jitters by the Jazz, the Rockets came out and put the Jazz on their heels right away to take a 6-0 lead. The defensive pressure that Houston started with forced the Jazz into a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers. That kind of set the tone for the first half, the Jazz responded well overall and the lead never got out of hand for Houston but it felt like they were on their heels right from the get go. The shooting was off for both teams and for the first quarter and a half it felt like a low scoring, defensive showdown. Both teams got things going at the end of the first half a little bit and it looked like it might be a double digit lead for the Rockets at halftime but the Jazz closed the quarter strong to pull it within five.
The second half started off just like the first unfortunately, and it got out of hand from there. The Rockets are unbelievable when they start hitting their three's, it's hard to stop when they have all five guys that can bomb from anywhere on the court. Ryan Anderson couldn't miss in the 3rd quarter and that makes it nearly impossible for the Jazz or any other team in the league to guard. Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell got his offense going and scored a little in the 3rd quarter but it felt like he along with the whole Jazz offense was pressing way too much and their wasn't any passing at all. By the time the fourth quarter came around the Rockets had already put the clamps on this game and let off the gas a little bit. That allowed the Jazz to make a mini run and threaten for a minute in the 4th, but Houston quickly put their starters back in to put an end to any ideas of a comeback.
All in all, the Rockets just had too much firepower to overcome. The Jazz were reeling from the beginning and they were pressing too much, give to credit to the Rockets defensive feistiness for that because that is the biggest difference between last years Houston team and this year. It will be interesting going forward to see how the Jazz can integrate Rudy Gobert back into the team as he looks a little bit out of sync since returning from his knee injury. The Jazz will be okay for this season, ultimately this is just one game, but you hope that they can use a game like tonight to get better and ultimately gain some more confidence no matter who they are playing.