Tonight’s game was supposed to be easy. The Houston Rockets were playing without most of their rotation players. Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, and John Wall (their top 4 scorers) missed tonight’s game due to injury. Danuel House has been dealing with a knee injury, and P.J. Tucker will no longer be a member of the team, per Shams.
At the 4:41 mark of the 3rd quarter, a pull-up three by Donovan Mitchell put the Jazz up by 23, their largest lead of the game. It looked the Utah Jazz would run away with the game, finally blowing things open heading into the final frame.
Houston wasn’t ready to roll over. Over the next 10-ish minutes of game time, the Rockets would go on a 27-8 run and cut the lead to four points with just under 7:30 to go. The Jazz had expected to sleepwalk their way to a win, and they were in danger of falling victim to the dreaded “trap game”.
Kevin Porter Jr. did this:
KPJ built DIFFERENT! pic.twitter.com/lXq2iNClUQ— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 13, 2021
Kevin Porter Jr. crazy talentedpic.twitter.com/HXRnOlTa0n— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) March 13, 2021
The Rockets players deserve a ton of credit for their level of effort and hustle tonight, as they managed to grab a whopping 19 offensive rebounds. Justin Patton (6’11”) is the only Rocket that saw the floor listed at 6’7” or taller. Utah got outworked tonight on the glass.
Houston’s players were active on defense, forcing 17 Utah turnovers. Rockets defenders swarmed Utah’s playmakers, regularly blitzing the pick and roll or doubling the ball handler. Mitchell (4), Mike Conley (3), and Jordan Clarkson (3) each had some turnover issues tonight.
After Houston had cut the lead to four at the 7:28 mark of the 4th quarter, the two teams traded body blows over the next few minutes. Utah’s lead would bounce around between four and ten over the next few minutes.
Rudy Gobert would answer back, though.
#TakeNote pic.twitter.com/71fTgNxjRA— utahjazz (@utahjazz) March 13, 2021
Then, with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Rudy Gobert caught a pass out of pick and roll action, saw that Houston’s defense had rotated to double him in the paint, and kicked a pass out to Royce O’Neale in the corner, who drilled the three. The Rockets answered back with a bucket of their own, but a Rudy layup out of another pick and roll with Conley pushed the Utah lead to 11 points with 1:16 remaining. Backbreaker.
The game ball definitely has to go to Rudy Gobert tonight. He was active and dominant on defense, protecting the rim (six blocks!) and switching onto smaller players on the perimeter. Offensively, he scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-of-6 from the free throw line), and regularly made the right read on the short roll. He only got credit for one assist, but he consistently made the right decision when Houston packed the paint against his rim runs.
It wasn’t a pretty win, and there’s a lot to be concerned about with tonight’s effort level. But overall, it seems like the team eventually got the message and escaped with another one in the W column.