The Houston Rockets were supremely shorthanded, coming into the second night of a back-to-back without the services of James Harden, who was sitting out with a thigh bruise, Clint Capela, who was out with a bruised heel, and Russell Westbrook, who was on his usual back-to-back load management.
They were meeting a red hot Utah Jazz squad who came into tonight winners of their last four games in a row and nine out of their last 10 and had elevated all the way to the second seed in the Western Conference.
Things looked a little bleak before tip-off in Salt Lake City, but to everyone’s surprise, the Rockets simply ran the Jazz off the floor to the tune of a 126-117 surprise victory in which they led by double-digit points for the vast majority of the night.
Houston was led by Eric Gordon, who was as unstoppable as he’s been at any point in a Rockets’ uniform, as he went off for 50 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block, and he did his best James Harden impersonation by shooting 14-22 from the field, 6-11 from the three-point line, and 16-20 from the free throw line in a virtuoso performance.
But it wasn’t just a one-man show.
In addition to EG’s career night, Danuel House stepped up to the tune of 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 steals, and Austin Rivers, who drew the start, completed tonight’s big three by also going for 21 points.
The Rockets also got contributions from across the roster, in a game that will hopefully wake up a formerly struggling supporting cast. P.J. Tucker pitched in 9 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists, and even Thabo Sefolosha had 9 points and looked competent offensively at times.
If Houston’s role players can use this performance as springboard to snap out of a former slump, the Rockets very well could be in business once Harden, Westbrook, and Capela all get back healthy.
The Jazz kept it from being a total blowout behind great nights from Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 36 points on 14-25 from the field, and Bojan Bogdanovich, who finished with 30 points on 7-13 from three. But the Jazz hit just 12-42 triples overall for the night, over half of which came from Bojan, and the Rockets countered by shooting 15-40, essentially the final difference in the game.
This was a big win for Houston, as it looked like a certain schedule loss, and the Rockets now move to 29-17 on the year and are hopefully righting the ship after some recent struggles.
They’re off tomorrow night before returning to action Wednesday on the road in Portland against the Trail Blazers.