Before tonight’s game, I called for a welcome-back present after a two-week medical hiatus via a win over my most hated of Rockets rivals. Instead, what happened was a rude awakening.
The Rockets were beaten in just about every facet tonight against Utah, having trouble scoring on the Jazz’s vaunted defense and completely unable to get any stops against a team not exactly known as an offensive juggernaut.
Houston shot just 40.7 percent from the field and were continuously bothered by Rudy Gobert’s presence inside while also shooting just 11-30 from downtown to cap off an ugly performance scoring the basketball. They did only turn the ball over 7 times in the game, but they just couldn’t get any rhythm going and were disrupted by the Utah defense for the majority of the contest.
James Harden led the way for the Rockets by scoring 26 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, but he shot just 8-23 from the field, highlighting the Rockets’ inability to get their offense in sync. Houston also received 24 points from Eric Gordon, but it was mostly a barren wasteland after that, with Sam Dekker pitching in 10 points and Ryan Anderson getting 11 as the only other players in double figures.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, their offense wasn’t even the biggest problem tonight. Houston’s defense was non-existent, as they allowed the Jazz to shoot 55.4 percent from the field, including 15-28 from beyond the arc. The 62 points Utah scored in the first half represents their largest total in the first half this season, and the 9 triples they buried in the first half was a similar season best for a half.
Gordon Hayward led the way for Utah with 31 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, and they also received 19 from Rodney Hood, who always seems to kill the Rockets, but the biggest difference maker for the Jazz was Gobert. He finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocked shots and looked like a man among boys playing against the Houston front line of Anderson, Clint Capela and Nene.
Anderson finished with just 2 rebounds to go along with his modest scoring, Capela finished with 8 points and 6 boards, while Nene had just 4 points and 4 rebounds. They just simply couldn’t hang with the Utah front court, which was missing Derrick Favors but still managed to dominate the Rockets on the back of Gobert.
The Rockets fall to 11-7 while the Jazz jump up to 11-8, as these two teams are likely to battle it out for a middle playoff seed all season long. The season series with the Jazz is now tied at one apiece, and these two teams won’t meet again until March of the new year.
Houston is off tomorrow night before traveling to Oakland on Thursday for a matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Hopefully the Rockets come out a bit sharper for that contest than what we saw tonight or else it could be over by halftime. Though something tells me we’ll see the Houston squad that’s been playing so well in recent days rather than the one that stunk up the joint in Salt Lake City. I hope.