This game is what happens when you go into a game thinking “Maybe we can get an easy win and get the starters some rest tonight.” The Houston Rockets (29-17) entered tonight missing Russell Westbrook (rest due to back-to-back), James Harden (thigh) and Clint Capela (heel). They had no business competing with the completely healthy Utah Jazz (32-14), the current No. 2 seed in the West.
They won 126-117 in the worst start-to-finish performance of the season for the Jazz. Donovan Mitchell was basically the only Utah player to show up tonight, finishing with 36. Bojan Bogdanovic made a late push by dropping some 3-point shots in the 4th quarter en route to 30 points, but it was too little too late. The good news is this one doesn’t have time to linger for the Jazz, who will be back on the court Wednesday night in San Antonio.
Rational reaction #1: The game-starting tribute to Kobe Bryant was incredibly moving
Before the game, the Jazz held a moment of silence to honor Kobe Bryant.
In keeping with what’s been going on around the league since the news of Bryant’s death, the Jazz and Rockets started this contest with back-to-back violations. Utah won the tip and Donovan Mitchell walked across the timeline. He dribbled out the 24-second shot clock in honor of Kobe’s 24. The Houston Rockets took the next possession and held the ball in the backcourt for an 8-second violation in honor of Kobe’s 8. There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the building. I know for certain there wasn’t a dry eye on my couch at home.
Rational reaction #2: This was a terrible game to lose
There’s just no excuse for this one. The Rockets were missing three starters, their best three players. Those three combine for 105.9 minutes a game and 76.3 points. This was a lineup you can’t lose to.
Not only was this an awful loss, it was just an awful performance. The perimeter defense didn’t exist. Rudy Gobert wasn’t himself on defense and was completely phased out of the offense with 5 shots on the night. The Jazz couldn’t hit a 3 for much of the night. They turned the ball over 17 times. Most of those were just sloppy dribbling and bad passes.
The effort wasn’t there, the execution wasn’t there, the result, fittingly, wasn’t there.
Overreaction #1: Eric Gordon is the new James Harden
James who? The Rockets didn’t need him tonight; they had Eric Gordon.
Gordon finished with 50 (FIFTY) points on 14-of-22 shooting and hit six 3-pointers. He shot like Harden. He got into the lane like Harden. He even got Harden’s whistle, shooting 20 free throws. Utah was powerless to stop him.
Overreaction #2: The Jazz have never hit a 3 against Houston
Don’t fact check me on that. It’s true, just trust me.
Joe Ingles is shooting 42% from 3 this season. He was 1-of-7 tonight.
Royce O’Neale is shooting 42.5% from 3 this season. He was 0-of-3 tonight.
Jordan Clarkson is shooting 35.4% from 3 this season. He was 0-of-3 tonight.
Additionally, Mike Conley was 0-of-4 from behind the arc.
After a playoff series where the Jazz shot abysmally from 3-point range and got swept to end their season, this game felt like the ghosts of seasons past came back to haunt Utah.
Under-reaction: Perhaps I should stop writing these
Since December 11 the Jazz have played 22 games. They have lost 3 of them. I have written 3 game recaps in that span. You guessed it: I’ve recapped the only 3 losses.
Consider this my unofficial retirement from game recaps. I volunteer as tribute. Just make it stop.