A win is a win. That is a sentiment commonly shared in the sports community and it is true, but not all wins are created alike. The Utah Jazz’s 132-127 thriller win over the Houston Rockets tonight had its bright spots, but whew, it had some negative things as well.
The Jazz should have beaten a Rockets team that entered the game on a 10-game losing streak, and that was without Eric Gordon, by a lot. In fact, betting odds had the Jazz as 15 point favorites. It looked like the Jazz would cover that spread for the majority of the game, but they blew it all away in the closing minutes and settled instead for an overtime game that they had no business playing in resulting in Mitchell playing 40 minutes, Gobert playing 38, and Conley playing 34.
It was truly a mixed bag that did see the Jazz notch their third straight win but also left you wondering how in the world the Jazz let this be a close game.
The game started out with the Jazz playing well. In the first 5 minutes, the Jazz had built a 5-point lead behind their two All-Stars. Mitchell had 8 and Gobert had 6 which made up all of the Jazz’s 14 points to that mark.
Gobert subbed out, but Mitchell stayed hot and it wasn’t until around the 4-minute mark that somebody not named Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert got some points for the Jazz as Bojan Bogdanovic hit a nice fadeaway shot. That gave the Jazz a 21-14 lead as Utah slowly added to their lead.
A late bucket for Clarkson was the only other first-quarter points not scored by Gobert or Mitchell. Utah ended the first quarter up 25-20 behind 13 points from Mitchell and 8 from Gobert.
The beginning of the second quarter did not go the Jazz’s way. They gave up too many open threes and turned the ball over too much. They already had 6 turnovers at this point in the game. This led the Rockets to go on a run and take a 35-34 lead with 8 minutes remaining in the second.
The Jazz responded in a big way with a quick 19-3 run in less than 4 minutes of game time. Three’s from Royce, Bogey, and Mitchell along with an old-fashioned three-point play from Mitchell led the run as the Jazz took a 53-38 lead.
Mitchell was blistering hot in the first half scoring 22 points on 8/12 shooting. Gobert added 14 points on 6/6 shooting and had 8 rebounds. This pushed the Jazz into halftime with a 66-53 lead.
The third quarter saw more Gobert dominance. The Rockets had no answers for him as he scored an additional 6-points in 5 minutes to get up to 20 points total with 7 minutes left in the third. He also added 5 more boards in that same timespan to bring his total to 13.
Despite a strong third quarter from Gobert and Mitchell the Rockets hung tough and chipped away at the Jazz’s lead widdling the lead down to 6 at one point. The Jazz lost the quarter 30-27 to make it a 10-point game heading into the 4th.
At around the 11-minute mark in the 4th, Gobert slammed down his 10th dunk of the game which is a new career-high for him for dunks in a single game. The NBA single-game record for dunks is held by Shaq who had 11 dunks three separate times. Gobert came close but did finish the game with 10 dunks.
At the 6:21 mark, Mitchell hit a layup after a Rockets turnover to give the Jazz a 106-92 lead and the bucket officially gave Mitchell yet another 30-point game. Things were looking like they were about ready to be wrapped up for the Jazz and it appeared they would cover the 15-point spread. Think again.
The Rockets would not go away as the Jazz held the door wide open for them to go on a 12-2 run to make it a 4-point game with only 4:22 remaining. This forced the Jazz to take a timeout to try to regroup and close out a bad Rockets team missing one of their top players.
Christian Wood hit a three with around 2:30 left to make it a 3-point game. Gobert answered by coming up with a huge offensive rebound and was fouled. He managed to make one of his free throws to make it a 4-point game. The Rockets scored right back to make it a two-point game.
The meltdown continued as the Jazz turned over the ball, so the Rockets had the ball with 1:30 left only down three. Kevin Porter Jr. was fouled on a drive and hit one of his free throws to make it a 1-point game.
On the ensuing possession, Mitchell drove and was fouled. He missed his first shot at the line which made the second shot huge with only 50 seconds remaining. He knocked it down to make it a two-point game yet again.
Mitchell played some nice defense at the start of the possession and was able to knock the ball away from Houston out of bounds. They would retain possession with only 7 seconds left in the shot clock and 34 remaining on the game clock. The Jazz didn’t play defense for the final 7 seconds of the shot clock as Porter Jr got an easy layup to tie the game up. Houston had officially come all the way back from 18-points down.
Utah called a timeout to advance the ball and make plans for a possible final possession. Tied up at 114 with 30 seconds remaining. Mitchell went iso versus Jalen Green and as he drove he stumbled on a euro step but managed to pass the ball to Mike Conley who hit a clutch 3 in the corner (only his second made field goal of the game to that point). This put the Jazz up three with 8 seconds remaining.
You would suspect that would have been game, set, match. Not so fast. The Rockets had something else to say. They called a timeout to advance the ball and Christian Wood side-stepped Gobert who was closing out hard and was able to knock down a three as the buzzer sounded.
Time for overtime.
Early in the overtime period, Bogey tried to fight around a screen and ran right into Garrison Matthews giving him three free throws which resulted in a 120-117 lead.
On the next possession, Mitchell turned over the ball and then was forced to foul Wood after he grabbed an offensive rebound. Wood made just one of his free throws, but it put the Rockets up two possessions with 3:45 remaining in overtime. Things were starting to look bad for the Jazz.
Mitchell did manage to get a bucket and-one to bring the Jazz back within one. They managed to get a stop and Mitchell followed that up with a deep three behind a Gobert screen to put the Jazz back on top by 2. The score sat at 123-121 with 2:30 left.
Porter Jr. answered with a three-point play of his own and we went back and forth as Conley then knocked down a three. The Jazz went back up two and got back the ball after a Mathews’ airball. Conley hit another three that was the dagger as it put the Jazz up 5 with 1:17 remaining in OT.
The Jazz avoided the embarrassing upset behind some clutch scoring from Mitchell and Conley and some huge offensive rebounds from Gobert. That doesn’t mean that it was a feel-good story despite it being a great game. The way the Jazz played down the stretch of the fourth quarter to give up a 14-point lead with just over 6 minutes to go will not sit well with the team and it likely will not sit well with Jazz fans.
That being said, Mitchell and Gobert did turn in huge games with Mitchell scoring 37 points, dishing 10 assists, and nabbing 3 steals while Gobert had 27 points, a career-high 10 dunks, 17 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Conley got in on the action late with his clutch shooting and did end up with 15 after only having 6 points heading into overtime. Conley also had 8 assists and 4 steals. Bogey quietly had 18 points while Clarkson managed 14 points of his own.
The Jazz looked really good at points in this game and then seemed to lose focus at other points. Houston fans did not bring the playoff atmosphere that the Jazz’s two prior games against the Mavericks and the Suns did which probably didn’t help them to maintain focus, but that really isn’t a great excuse.
Nonetheless, as mentioned at the beginning, a win is a win and the Jazz managed to get the job done in the end. It just took a lot more work than any of us probably expected. Utah now sits 3 games behind Memphis for the three-seed and 3.5 games behind the Warriors for the 2 seed. With 21 games remaining after tonight, we will see if they can catch them.