UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Get Wakeup Call Against Feisty Rockets

Mar 12, 2021, 11:18 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2021, 12:07 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz beat the Houston Rockets 114-99 Friday night to earn their first victory back from the All-Star break.

Though Houston was playing extremely shorthanded, they kept the game competitive through the first three and a half quarters before the Jazz finally pulled away.

The Jazz were led by 28 points from Donovan Mitchell who also added eight rebounds and seven assists. Rudy Gobert scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked six shots in the victory.

Rockets Face Impossible Odds

There are tough games, there are scheduled losses, then are impossible odds like the Rockets faced against the Jazz tonight. Houston was playing without John Wall, PJ Tucker, Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood, Dante Exum, Eric Gordon, Danuel House, and Rodions Kurucs.

Houston had nine players available, one of whom was the injured David Nwaba, another was Mason Jones who was on a 10-day contract, Justin Patton and Anthony Lamb are two-way players, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate are rookies, Kevin Martin Jr. has played one game for the Rockets before facing the Jazz, while Sterling Brown and Ben McLemore are the only proven NBA vets.

Using the Jazz current roster, let’s try to build a rotation that would look similar to the Rockets rotation if we were to try to even these odds up.

Starters

Kevin Porter Jr. = Miye Oni

Sterling Brown = Royce O’Neale

Ben McLemore = George Niang

Jae’Sean Tate = Juwan Morgan

Justin Patton = Udoaka Azubuike

Reserves

Anthony Lamb = Trent Forrest

Kenyon Martin Jr. = Elijah Hughes

David Nwaba = Jarrell Brantley

Mason Jones = ???

The Rockets roster is so thin, it’s hard to even find comps for their current end-of-the-bench players as the Jazz haven’t had to rely on a 10-day contract player to fill roster minutes to this point

David Nwaba was questionable heading into the game but told Rockets coach Stephen Silas he would play hurt if they needed him, and they did.

To add difficulty, the Rockets played last night in Sacramento before traveling to Utah to play on the second night of back-to-back games, at altitude.

Making matter worse, they’d lost 14 games heading into their matchup with the Jazz, who own the best record in the NBA.

Now, none of the blame for his equation belongs to any of the Rockets players in uniform or coach Stephen Silas who has been dealt an impossible hand this season.

Russell Westbrook was traded just before the season began, franchise cornerstone James Harden got moved in January, and the rest of the team has been bitten by a terrible injury bug.

The Rockets aren’t supposed to be good right now, and they aren’t, but this was a uniquely impossible situation that we’re unlikely to see again.

Jazz Needed To Shake Off Rust Against Rockets

Though the final result was lopsided, the Jazz needed this game to shake off the All-Star rust or they would have found themselves in a difficult spot against better competition.

It must be noted that despite their poor roster, it can be hard to prepare for a team like Houston with so little game film of these players or lineups. As a result, the Rockets’ impromptu style of play allowed them to attack the Jazz defense by playing fast and sometimes out of control.

The Jazz offense turned the ball over 20 times, allowed Houston to get into the paint with ease, and on those drives, the team allowed the Rockets to kick the ball out to open shooters.

Houston connected on just nine three-pointers, but their 43 attempts were the most by any Jazz opponent this season, and against a better roster it likely would have cost them the game.

“Very poor on a lot of levels,” Snyder said about the Jazz performance. “We gave up the paint, gave up everything. We gave up the paint, gave up threes. We were lucky didn’t make more shots.”

The Jazz built their lead to as large as 23 in the third quarter, but Houston clawed back in the second half and trimmed the lead to just four points in the fourth quarter.

Porter Jr. is a good player for the Rockets, and he’s a tough cover despite his youth, but with the best record in the NBA, and the league’s second-best defense, the Jazz should have had an easier time slowing Houston’s attack in the second half.

One holdover from the first half of the season was the Jazz continued lapses on the defensive glass. The Rockers were able to snare 19 offensive rebounds, despite their tallest player standing just 6’6.

As opposing, offenses spread the Jazz defense out, they pull Gobert further away from the rim, meaning he isn’t there to grab the defensive rebound. The same thing happens when Jazz perimeter defenders are beat off the dribble and Gobert is asked to help at the rim. When that happens, the rest of the roster has to rebound, and too often against Houston they simply waited for the ball to fall in their lap, or even let it hit the ground.

“You’re going to give up a few offensive rebounds, guys are crashing from the perimeter,” Snyder said. “But it’s just got to be more important for everybody to do their job in those situations.”

The Rockets scrappy second unit was happy to attack the Jazz lackadaisical rebounders and scored 24 points second-chance points. The Jazz managed just six offensive rebounds leading to nine second-chance points. It was one of the most glaring reasons Houston climbed back into the game, and an issue the Jazz will have to resolve quickly.

Every team the Jazz face for the rest of the season is going to want to prove themselves against the league’s best record, and the Jazz were lucky to get such a vulnerable roster in their first game out of the break.

The Jazz have a chance to prove they’ve been able to shake the rust off on Sunday when they retake the floor against the Golden State Warriors.

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