Like so many times before, the game was a tale of two halves. In the first half the Rockets looked awful then in second half, they clamped down of defense and were able to make a double-digit lead evaporate. The Rockets were able to hang on for the win and make the long flight from Utah just a little more palatable.
Just when you think you might have the Rockets all figured out, they surprise you.
Below are three takeaways from the Rockets win over the Jazz.
So the Rockets can play defense
In the first half, the Rockets played no defense to speak of, allowing 58 points on 50 percent shooting, even managing to let the Jazz, without Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks or Derrick Favors, to score 37 points alone in the second quarter. Out of halftime, the Rockets held the Jazz to 33 points on 28.6 percent shooting in the final two-quarters.
It wasn't the Jazz just missing wide open shots either. The Rockets really did play honest-to-goodness defense. James Harden was able to stay in front of his man, even turning a few guys with the ball away from the paint and forcing them into bad shots. Dwight Howard played the most minutes he had played all season, and despite looking sluggish in the first half, looked spry by the end of the night, changing multiple shots at the rim.
The Jazz may have been down few players, but so were the Rockets, and the effort on defense in the final half was a very welcome sight.
Terrence Jones doesn't have to play?
The Rockets coming into Monday's game with the Jazz were extremely short-handed. Donatas Motiejunas is back in Houston because of a sore back, Marcus Thornton's fiancé just hand a baby so he isn't with the team either, and Ty Lawson is a little injured.
So going into the game with all of those factors, you kind of figured Jones would have to play about 30-35 minutes Monday night.
And the Rockets did need that from Jones, the problem was he was not good at all. Jones was given 15 minutes in the first half and had as much impact on the game as I did. In the second half when the Rockets needed to go to back to Jones, head coach J.B Bickerstaff decided to go deeper down the bench bringing in Montrezl Harrell.
Both Jones and Harrell played about 15 minutes, the rookie forward just made his minutes count much more. Harrell was aggressive, kept the ball moving and played good pressure defense.
It took injuries and a poor performance by Jones to get Harrell into the game, but his energy and team play will likely give him some run down the road.
Nail bitter in the end
Like so many games before this game came down to the last final plays. Unlike those games before, this one went the Rockets way.
Rockets up 91 to 89 with 1:03 left in the game, they had two chances at extending the lead but after two bad Harden jumpers, the Jazz got the ball back.
Jeff Withey had a chance to tie the game with a dunk but Harrell gave the Rockets a winning play. Harrell went to contest Withey's dunk, it was part block and part foul — things always even themselves out — Trevor Ariza got the rebound and instead of just advancing the ball like normal and running a bad play, the Rockets called a timeout. On the following inbounds pass, the Rockets didn't get the look they wanted, so they called another timeout.
Both are things that have haunted the team in previous games. The Rockets finally got the ball inbounds and get it to Jason Terry who is quickly fouled. Terry was only able to knock down one free throw, so the Rockets were only up three points. The Jazz got the rebound and call a timeout.
With 10 seconds left the Jazz get the ball to Rodney Hood (who was on fire all game), he dribbles around the arc and then takes a step back three only to be fouled by Harden.
Hood hits the first two shots and then misses the third, and with three seconds left the Rockets get the rebound and that is pretty much all she wrote.