Late Jazz Mistakes Costly Against Rockets

Jan 20, 2024, 10:06 PM | Updated: Jan 22, 2024, 10:47 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz blew several key chances to beat the Houston Rockets and fell 127-126 in overtime.

Alperen Sengun carried the Rockets with 37 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists.

The Jazz were led by Jordan Clarkson who scored 33.

Mistakes Cost Jazz Against Rockets

The Jazz found themselves down 17 points in the first half as sloppy play allowed the Rockets to dominate the boards, and score easily off turnovers.

“It’s a miracle we were even in that game,” Will Hardy said. “They had 23 offensive rebounds and we have 17 turnovers. It’s a bad formula on the road.”

But after clawing back to tie the game, the Jazz committed crucial mistakes down the stretch which cost them the opportunity to escape Houston with a win.

Two of the Jazz’s 17 turnovers came in overtime, including a difficult series from Walker Kessler who gave the ball away on a moving screen, then fouled Sengun on a layup which led to a three-point play that tied the game at 126 with 52 seconds left to play.

Kessler shot 2-4 from the free throw line in overtime and finished with seven points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in 32 minutes.

Clarkson and Collin Sexton accounted for 61 of the Jazz’s points, but combined for just three points on 1-5 shooting in overtime, and neither recorded an assist over the game’s final five minutes

And, though he finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, the Rockets neutralized Lauri Markkanen in the game’s most important moments, holding him to four points and zero rebounds on 2-4 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Ultimately, the Jazz showed resilience by erasing their double-digit halftime deficit but came up short when it mattered most.

Hardy Alters Rotation

The Jazz coach made significant changes to his rotation at halftime as the team battled to send the game to overtime.

Kessler started the third quarter in place of John Collins while Keyonte George was out of the rotation entirely as Kris Dunn played 19 second half minutes.

“We made the switch at halftime to try to play Walker more against against Sengun — I think the overall physicality was good,” Hardy explained. “I thought Kris Dunn did a really good job tonight guarding the ball. We needed him to come back in and guard [Fred] VanVleet because he was getting away from us and pick and roll a little bit ”

Collins has struggled in back-to-back games scoring just seven points on 3-9 shooting in Houston after recording a team-worst -19 plus-minus in Thursday’s five-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

George has also struggled combined to shoot 2-8 for six points to go with five turnovers in his last two outings.

Jazz Games Have Playoff Implications

After sitting on the outside of the Western Conference Playoff race looking in for the first month and a half of the season, every game for the remainder of the year will have postseason implications for the Jazz.

Saturday’s loss to Houston closed the gap between the two teams to a half-game, as the Rockets sit in the 11th seed at 20-21 while the Jazz are clinging onto the ninth seed at 22-22.

With the Rockets, Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, and New Orleans Pelicans all by just 5.5 games, the race for the 5-10th seeds in the West could change on a nightly basis.

Over their final 38 games, the Jazz will play those seven teams a combined 14 times, matchups that will most likely determine whether or not they make playoffs.

Utah Jazz’s Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Pelicans on Tuesday at 6 pm MST in New Orleans. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Late Jazz Mistakes Costly Against Rockets