Markkanen Goes Cold, Jazz Drop First Game To Rockets
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz dropped their first game of the season to the previously winless Houston Rockets 114-108 as Lauri Markkenen struggled to lead the offense.
The Jazz looked tired from the jump playing in Houston after beating the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime on Sunday night.
Seven Jazz players scored in double-digits, but the team had its worst defensive outing of the season as it finished its three-game road trip 2-1.
Markkanen Struggles For Jazz Against Rockets
After three impressive outings to start the season for the Jazz, Lauri Markkanen failed to find his rhythm against the Rockets.
The Finnish forward had been averaging 24 points per game entering the matchup against Houston but managed just 14 points on 7-18 shooting, including a difficult 0-6 performance from the three-point line.
Markkanen has yet to shoot the ball well from downtown this season, converting just 7-29 attempts this season for 24 percent.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) October 25, 2022
The seven-footer has a career average of 36 percent from deep, but hasn’t managed to find his stroke yet beyond the arc for the Jazz.
The Jazz owned the sixth-best offensive rating in the NBA entering the night at 115.6, but that dipped to 109.1 against Houston. The Rockets meanwhile turned in an offensive rating of 114.0, the highest allowed by a Jazz opponent this season, and it resulted in their first loss of the year.
Markkanen’s struggles left the Jazz without a clear offensive identity and may be the first telltale of the team’s weaknesses this season.
Hardy Continues To Vary Lineup
Though the Jazz may be head of schedule at 3-1 on the season, it’s not due to coach Will Hardy’s unwillingness to mix up his rotation.
Hardy has yet to close the game with the same five players on the floor this season, including Simone Fontecchio and Nickeil Alexander-Walker each recording crucial minutes down the stretch in Houston.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) October 25, 2022
Fontecchio played the entire fourth quarter and rewarded Hardy with 13 points to keep the Jazz offensive alive late in the game. Alexander-Walker played five minutes in a small lineup that also featured Rudy Gay, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Malik Beasley.
The small unit provided energy for the Jazz on the offensive end but failed to get stops as Houston scored 37 fourth quarter points on 11-16 shooting.
With Fontecchio and Alexander-Walker seeing the floor, Hardy has shown a willingness to give the back end of the rotation important developmental minutes.
Through four games, only rookie Ochai Agbaji and second-year guard Leandro Bolmaro have yet to see real rotation minutes for the Jazz.
Kessler, Gay Crash Back To Earth
Rudy Gay and Walker Kessler had given the Jazz a series of strong performances to start the season, but the reserve frontcourt struggled against the Rockets.
Gay and Kessler went scoreless in 21 combined minutes, shooting a 0-6 from the floor as a duo.
Kessler had his first rough rookie outing committing four fouls and turning the ball over twice in just eight minutes.
Gay missed all five of his field goal attempts and the Jazz were outscored by seven in the forward’s 13 minutes on the floor.
The Jazz bench outscored Houston 44-25, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Rockets starters who won the scoring battle 89-64.
The Jazz will again face the Rockets on Wednesday as the two teams return to Salt Lake City for a rematch. The game tips off at 7 pm MT and will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. The game will also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.
- Kelly Olynyk is now 11-14 to open the season from the three-point line, shooting a blistering 78 percent through four games. The center knocked down both of his attempts against Houston.
- Collin Sexton’s minutes have dropped each game so far this season. The guard signed a four-year, $71 million with the Jazz this offseason but has seen his number drop from 20, to 19, to 18, to 15 over the last four games. The guard finished with 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.
- Jarred Vanderbilt led the team with 32 minutes and recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds, but was the only starter to finish with a negative plus-minus in the game (-9).
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