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Utah Jazz lose second straight game, tiebreaker to Houston Rockets

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Local basketball players in Utah fail to show up to second straight day of work after returning from All-Star vacation.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

I’m out of things to say. I just don’t know. The play of the game on the Jazz home broadcast was the Jazz Bear with a trampoline dunk during a timeout. That’s about all you need to know.

The Utah Jazz (36-20) were outclassed in just about every way tonight en route to a 120-110 loss to the Houston Rockets (36-20), their second straight loss coming out of the all-star break.

The Jazz lost focus during several stretches throughout the game, most notably no-showing out of the locker room at halftime and being outscored 38-19 in the game’s third frame after scrapping to a 4-point halftime lead. The Rockets’ small ball continued to create havoc, and despite Utah’s attempt at a zone defense that half-worked, Houston remains a bad matchup for the Jazz.

Rational Reaction #1: The Jazz can’t afford to lose these games against teams around them in the standings

This was a horrible game to lose in the standings. The Jazz have fallen even with the Rockets to drop to the No. 5 seed and lost the season series tiebreaker to Houston. They’re now only 2 games up on the Oklahoma City Thunder (two games against remaining) at No. 6 and 2.5 games up on the Dallas Mavericks (one game against remaining) at No. 7.

If Utah isn’t careful they could easily fall even further as the battle for playoff seeding continues in the Western Conference. Luckily, the schedule eases up a little in the coming couple of weeks, but regardless the Jazz need to start playing much better. They’re paving an impossible road for themselves in the playoffs.

Rational Reaction #2: James Harden and Russell Westbrook got whatever they wanted

We’ve seen the Jazz perimeter defense get cooked on a nightly basis this season. It’s even worse when the opposing backcourt is comprised of all-stars. Harden and Westbrook combined for 72 points tonight. Westbrook got to the rim, got out in transition and didn’t get lulled into the three-point shot (though he was 2-of-4 from there). He finished with 34 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. He also led the game in trash talk.

Harden settled in behind the arc (6-of-11), at the free throw line (6-of-9) and pretty much anywhere else he wanted to score 38 points, grab 5 rebounds and dish out 7 assists. He also had 2 steals and a block and finished a game-high +24 on the floor. The Rockets stars showed out tonight and Utah couldn’t match the intensity.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Over Reaction #1: Jordan Clarkson had another incredible stretch, but he can’t be Utah’s best player

The Jazz led at halftime in large part due to Jordan Clarkson’s 14-point second quarter. It was a part of a 20-point half from the Jazz’s best player tonight.

Ok, so Donovan Mitchell showed out in the fourth quarter to make this game look closer than it was, so that might be a little hyperbolic. But through three quarters, Clarkson was the only player clearly playing well. It’s been much discussed that Clarkson has provided the scoring punch the Jazz were missing at times before the trade, but if he’s Utah’s best player on any given night, we’re in trouble. The Jazz simply need better play from their front line.

Over Reaction #2: A third straight Jazz-Rockets playoff series would be catastrophic

We don’t need Jazz-Rockets episode III in the 2020 NBA postseason. We’ve seen this movie before, we know how it ends. The Jazz shot 7-of-31 from 3 tonight to the Rockets’ 20-of-48. Sound familiar?

Utah’s sole win against Houston this season came on that miracle shot from Bogdanovic just before the break, and it seems that’s just what it takes for the Jazz to beat this team. They were a bad matchup already, and that’s even more striking now that the Rockets have fully leaned into the small ball. Someone’s going to have to strategize around that for a best-of-7 series, and I would just as soon not have to worry about that myself.

Under Reaction: O defense, where art thou?

For a considerable stretch of Jazz basketball, Rudy Gobert has been the only plus defender on the team, and even his effort is sometimes questionable. That was the case again tonight as the Rockets hit 100 points before the end of the third quarter. Utah’s game all around is frustrating right now, but it’s only going to get worse until they fix the defense.

For your pleasure, the “Morgan Jeweler Play of the Game”

Your site manager, Mychal Lowman, here. Couldn’t leave this recap without the “Play of the Game”. The Jazz should feel bad. Larry Miller have mercy on their souls.