There are few places I despise more than EnergySolutions Arena. For one, the Jazz play there which should be explanation enough. There's also the whole idea of the "homecourt advantage" that has developed there over the last few decades, as if a Malone and Stockton-led team needed more help from the officials than they were already getting.
But more recently, the Rockets seem to be completely unable to get on their game whenever they step into the arena, so for that it occupies a special part in my heart. Perhaps it's the cold, perhaps it's the altitude, or maybe it's whatever they put in the water, but whenever the Rockets have gotten off the plane in Utah the past couple of seasons, they seem to leave their defensive chops at the airport.
Tonight, as the Rockets were taking on a young Jazz team headed for the lottery, they were unable to control the Burk(e)s brothers, falling 109-103 in a game that they should never have lost. Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Gordon Hayward combined for a ridiculous 71 points on the night, and despite a 37 and 8 performance by James Harden, the Rockets were never able to keep up.
To lose a game like this is always frustrating beyond all measure, but the formula for the upset was truly very simple. The Rockets couldn't defend a thing all game, and with the Jazz hitting 59% of their three pointers, that shooting was the difference. Amazingly, the Rockets turned the ball over just eight times, but one of those, a late wayward pass from James Harden, was the killer.
The Rockets had pulled within one with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. After a needless Aaron Brooks foul, they trailed by three but had the ball and the momentum, hoping to take the ball down the Jazz's throats and tie the game up. In one pass, James Harden lost the ball, the momentum, and the Rockets chances at pulling out a comeback as he turned and fired a pass without looking that led to an uncontested Jazz fast break on the other end.
Harden certainly gets credit for his remarkable stat line, but he wasn't blameless in this one, as he had half the Rockets turnovers and played a large part in the Jazz's shooting gallery. As the Jazz fired away, he was all too content to simply wait back and hope to answer on the offensive end. With a Jazz team like this one shooting so well, that simply wasn't going to cut it.
It's just one game and the Rockets can bounce back, but I can only wish they had chosen another contest to blow in the still-young season. The Rockets couldn't stay with the Jazz on Monday night, falling to their long time rivals by a score of 109-103.