The Utah Jazz (11-8) destroyed the Houston Rockets (11-7) 120-101. This game was close, early. Rudy Gobert was doing his thing in the paint by getting offensive rebounds and finishing inside. And Ryan Anderson was hitting threes from deep as Houston kept the pace up and kept passing the ball. Eventually the Quin Snyder’s club found a way to use their size advantage to control the boards (35 on the defensive glass), and thus, control the pace of play (89.0 possessions). Houston wants to play some space age ball (96.9 possessions), and when they could get out in transition they were decimating Utah. The slow pace of play stopped the bleeding, holding H-Town to just 12 fast break points.
But really, the huge story here has to be Houston’s inability to play defense coupled with Utah’s unbelievable shooting night. Rodney Hood was huge tonight, even though he would play an injury abbreviated 20 minutes. [Hamstring injury] He still scored 19 and got so hot he was not just burning the Rockets inside and out, but also controlling the flow of the defense and finding guys for open shots (3 assists, some nice passes to Rudy Gobert and Trey Lyles in particular).
As a whole, the Jazz shot .554 .536 .852, which is a problem when you shoot 74 times, end up going 15/28 from deep, and get to the line 27 times. The Jazz starters (George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Boris Diaw, and Rudy Gobert) shot a collective 24/46, which is great. What’s even crazier is that their .522 FG% is lower than the team average of .554 — so you know everyone was cooking tonight.
Gordon Hayward broke out for 31 points (8/16 shooting overall, 3/6 from deep, 12/13 from the stripe) while also dishing it out 7 times, and collecting 5 rebounds. No steals, no blocks. But he played like a star, getting to the line, baiting the defense, and just plain making shots. James Harden had 26 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds as well, for the bad guys. But he did add 2 steals, but shot at a much worse rate (8/23, 2/6, and 8/10). If you lean on your stars to produce wins, Utah got one from their star -- and Houston did not.
But really, it’s not just the hot shooting or Hayward that delivered this much-needed home win. It was a team effort. And lots of guys stepped up to make a statement at home, on NBA TV. The first quarter was powered by Hood, and the team went up 38-29 after one. The second quarter saw Rudy Gobert find his way to a double double before halftime.
The third quarter was the only quarter where the Jazz didn’t “win”, and eventually Houston would battle back to make it a 9 point game (iirc). But everyone on the Jazz stepped up tonight. Joe Ingles did his thing, making a deep shot to put the nail in the coffin.
Joe Johnson made 3/5 spot up threes and went one on one and got whatever he wanted, finishing with 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Trey Lyles had 13 points off the bench, shooting well, and getting four boards and an assist along the way. Shelvin Mack and Dante Exum combined for 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal in 28 minutes. (The skew of the stats is hilarious, though.)
Even bigman Jeff Withey got some level of revenge against the team that fouls him and gets away with it, he had a big block to go with his 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal. All in 15 minutes of play.
This was nearly a wire-to-wire victory, and was a statement game. Once again the Jazz offense was awesome to watch tonight because guys were making shots. With Derrick Favors out the team had to go “four out” for most of the game. Against Houston you can do that, and still control the pace of play at home. What’s going to happen when Favors is back, and guys like Anderson get open even more? I worry about that.
Anyway, great win against a playoff club out West. The season series is tide 1-1 right now with a game to play as the rubber match. Our boys have the next night off, and will host the Miami Heat on December 1st.