James Harden finished with 35 points and 6 assists, though he was 0-8 from beyond the arc on an overall poor shooting night from Houston. They were just 8-32 from deep for the game, and we all know that if the Rockets aren’t shooting well or defending well, they are in big trouble.
The Rockets allowed Utah to shoot 54 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc and as is often the case when matching up against the Jazz, were taken to task by the Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood triumvirate. Gobert had 23 points and 10 boards while shooting 7-8 from the field, Hayward had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, while Rocket-killer Hood finished with 19 points for the Jazz.
The Rockets struggled from the very start against Utah, and showed a concerning lack of urgency on the defensive end in the the first half. They were lucky to be down just 11 points headed into the break.
The intensity picked up in the third quarter, and as the Rockets began to get stops, they slowly chipped away at the Utah lead heading into the final frame. Six straight points by Montrezl Harrell brought Houston to within 4 points in the fourth quarter, and they stayed close with less than a minute left.
Down 110-106, Patrick Beverley had a clean steal and a fast break, but the flubbed the ensuing layup, and the Rockets would unfortunately get no closer. Bev finished with 3 steals on the night, but was bad offensively, making just 1-7 from the floor and finishing with 3 points.
In addition to Harden, the Rockets were also led by Clint Capela, who finihsed with 19 points and 12 rebounds. But despite the robust stat line, Capela was often pushed around inside by Gobert. We all love us some Swiss Roll, but he’s got to improve his strength and defense.
The Rockets also got 14 points from Eric Gordon, who started in place of the injured Ryan Anderson, and they also got 12 points apiece from Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Williams is still struggling with his shot, going just 2-10, but he did become more of a creator tonight once he realized his touch wasn’t there, racking up 5 dimes, the second most on the team. He may be finding his groove a bit despite the rough shooting. But man, that defense. Sweet Lou was roasted tonight on more than one occasion.
The loss is the second in a row for the Rockets, and they now drop to 44-21 on the year. They’re also now just three games up on the Jazz in the Western Conference hierarchy, as Utah has won four straight. Houston also has lost the season series to the Jazz, so Utah owns the tiebreak should the teams finish with identical records.
The Rockets hope to get back on track Friday night, as they head to Chicago to take on the Bulls.