The Utah Jazz didn’t go down without a fight, but the result was the same regardless. The Jazz were downed by the Houston Rockets 100-93 to lose the series 4-1, ending Utah’s season. Houston completed the gentlemen’s sweep and, as was the theme for the Jazz in this series, they will see plenty of missed opportunities to extend their postseason run when they watch the tape on this one.
After allowing a 10-0 run to start the second half, Utah faced a 12-point deficit early in the third. The Jazz did a great job of staying within striking distance for the rest of the game and even took a 77-75 lead when Joe Ingles found Royce O’Neale on an oop play with 9 minutes remaining.
O’Neale’s stock only rose throughout this series, as we saw the sophomore be one of the most effective perimeter defenders on James Harden, who had another slow start in this one and finished just 10-of-26 from the field. O’Neale also showed out on the offensive end with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. I might even say Royce was Utah’s best player tonight.
In the clutch, we saw Donovan Mitchell struggle. With 1:09 remaining and the Jazz trailing by 1, Mitchell found Ricky Rubio for a wide open corner 3 to take the lead. He air balled it. Mitchell then fouled PJ Tucker on the defensive rebound.
When Tucker missed both free throws, Mitchell had the ball in his hands again with a chance to take the lead. He was stripped driving the lane by Eric Gordon, and subsequently fouled Gordon as well. Two unnecessary fouls sandwiched a turnover with the game on the line.
It was not a banner performance from the young star, as he finished with 5 turnovers and had 12 points on 22 shots. I wouldn’t bet against Mitchell’s future, however, and if anyone is selling his stock, I will buy it all. Tonight, along with the missed tying shot at the buzzer in game 3, will just add fuel to the fire of Spida’s work ethic and, in turn, his budding stardom. Bright days are ahead.
Still, this game wouldn’t have come to leaning on Mitchell for late-game heroics if the Jazz could have made a few more wide open shots. We watched Utah struggle to hit open shots from the opening tip of game 1 and tonight was no different. The Jazz were a measly 9-of-38 from behind the arc, just 23.7%, and 37.2% from the field.
At the end of the day, the final game of the Utah Jazz’s season confirmed yet again what we already knew. This team was full of character, low on quit and perhaps Utah’s easiest roster to root for ever. It was also deeply flawed, and this summer Dennis Lindsey’s number one priority should be to collect shooters like it’s going out of style.