Rockets vs. Jazz
A quick sampler of what Utah’s youth can do:
Derrick Favors is a good pick-and-roll roll man who is dangerous on the offensive glass. His low-post game is still very much a work in progress but he’s coming off a career night (28 points) against the Spurs and during his last five games the 22-year-old is averaging 18 points, 9.4 rebounds and one block per game.
HOUSTON – Setting the scene for Houston’s matchup with the Utah Jazz:
Utah Jazz (22-45) at Houston Rockets (44-22)
Utah: -6.2 (NBA rank: 27th)
Houston: +4.2 (NBA rank: 8th)
Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions):
Utah: 100.6 (23rd)
Houston: 107.9 (6th)
Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions):
Utah: 108.3 (30th)
Houston: 102.6 (10th)
Pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes):
Utah: 93.54 (27th)
Houston: 98.11 (9th)
Shooting – Effective field goal percentage (eFG% is a field goal percentage that’s adjusted for made 3-pointers being 1.5 times more valuable than a 2-point shot):
Utah: 48.5% (T-20th)
Houston: 53.0% (3rd)
Turnovers – Turnover ratio (the number of turnovers a team averages per 100 possessions):
Utah: 15.5 (17th)
Houston: 16.7 (29th)
Rebounding – Rebound percentage (the percentage of total rebounds obtained)
Utah: 49.4% (20th); offensive rebound rate: 25.5% (T-16th); defensive rebound rate: 74.3% (17th)
Houston: 52.0% (4th); offensive rebound rate: 27.8% (T-5th); defensive rebound rate: 73.4% (22nd)
Free Throws – Free throw rate (the rate at which a team goes to the line relative to the number of field goals it attempts):
Utah: .268 (T-17th)
Houston: .392 (1st)
HOUSTON — With the amount of offensive weapons Houston has, teams have to choose who they’re going to try and stop.
That often leaves other players with great opportunities to score, as was the case on Monday night when Utah keyed in on slowing down James Harden and Chris Paul to pave the way for Eric Gordon’s big night.
Gordon scored 17 of his season-high 33 points in the fourth quarter to power a huge run that put the Rockets on top, and they cruised to their 14th straight win, 120-99.
“All it takes is one of us to get hot and (Monday) it was EG,” Paul said. “And that was crazy.”
Houston used a 15-0 run early in the fourth to take the lead and was up by four midway through the quarter after a layup by Joe Ingles. The Rockets then scored 11 points in a row, capped by two 3-pointers from Gordon to make it 111-96 with about three minutes to go.
Gordon said that was the hottest quarter he’s ever had and when he got rolling he hoped his teammates would continue to find him.
“You’re looking for it every time down the court,” he said. “I think guys were looking for me and it was just a fun game in that fourth quarter.”
Harden added 26 points, Clint Capela had 24 points and 20 rebounds and Gordon finished with a season-high seven 3-pointers.
The Rockets struggled from long range for most of the night, making just nine of 31 3-pointers in the first three quarters. The found their groove in the final period, when they made eight of 12 with five from Gordon to pull away for their 20th win in 21 games.
Coach Mike D’Antoni was certainly happy Houston got the victory, but could have done without the Rockets waiting until the fourth quarter to pull away.
“We’re getting away from getting out there and getting after them right at the beginning and blowing them out,” D’Antoni said. “Now we’re waiting until the end. We’re going against that and we’ll try to do a better job.”
Rodney Hood had 26 points off the bench for the Jazz, who have lost six of their last seven games. Without Dante Exum all season as he recovers from left shoulder surgery, the Jazz were also missing Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and Raul Neto to various injuries on Monday night.
“We didn’t have enough at the end,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We couldn’t get stops in the fourth quarter and that can happen. We can say we ran out of gas, but they just continued to put pressure on us.”
Utah led by five points entering the fourth quarter and had extended the lead to eight with about 10 minutes remaining. Houston then scored the next 15 points, powered by three straight 3-pointers by Gordon, to make it 98-91 with about 7 1/2 minutes left.
Gordon made the first two before the Jazz called a timeout, but that didn’t cool him off as he hit another on Houston’s first possession after the timeout. Capela added a three-point play after that before Trevor Ariza added a 3-pointer to bring the crowd to its feet and spur Snyder to call another timeout.
The Rockets were up by one at halftime. Utah scored the last five points of the third with a 3-pointer from Hood to take an 84-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
Jazz: Favors missed his second straight game with an eye laceration. … Gobert sat out for the second game in a row with a left knee sprain and bone bruise. … Neto sat out for the fourth straight game after sustaining a concussion. …
Rockets: Nene (rest) did not play. … Capela returned after missing Saturday’s game with a bruised left heel. … Harden tied Moses Malone’s single-season franchise record of 29 straight games with 20 points or more.
STICKING TO FOOTBALL
Andre Ware, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1989 at Houston, participated in the Rockets’ First Shot promotion on Monday night where celebrities can win a $5,000 donation from owner Tilman Fertitta if they make a free throw. It didn’t appear that the 49-year-old’s athletic prowess translated to the basketball court as he air-balled the shot . Ware laughed and shook his head as the ball fell short of the basket. He wasn’t too upset though as he still earned $1,000 for charity by participating in the event.
THEY SAID IT
Harden on Houston’s defense in the fourth quarter: “First three quarters we didn’t get stops consistently, and so we really couldn’t get out in transition. But (in the fourth) we got stops and knock down 3s — game’s over.”
66 games into the regular season, the Rockets find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Houston has lost three in a row for the first time in its 2013-14 campaign thanks to a brutal road trip that proved to be quite a buzz kill given that the Rockets began the excursion riding high after having won 15 of its previous 17 games.
Alas, such is life in the NBA. Every other team in the league has dropped three consecutive contests at various points in the season so Houston has plenty of company in that regard (edit: the Clippers actually stand alone as the only team to have not lost three straight at any point this season). And as the two-time defending champs showed Sunday afternoon, the best and indeed only way to right the ship is to return to the win column by any means necessary. After knocking off the Rockets yesterday, no one is talking about the Heat’s five-defeats-in-six-games stretch anymore. Funny how that works. And so it must go for Houston now. Take care of business against Utah at home tonight, string together a few wins against a friendlier schedule over the next week or so, and all this current handwringing can be put in the rearview mirror – at least until the next mini crisis, of course.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Though the Jazz come into this contest dead last in the Western Conference and losers of four straight and nine of their last 10 games, the last thing Houston can do is look past its opponent. After all, Utah has already upset the Rockets once this season, and Houston had to overcome a 19-point first half deficit in its lone win over the Jazz back in November. The Rockets’ focus in such situations has typically been razor sharp in 2014 as they’ve rolled up a 15-0 mark this calendar year when facing clubs who have entered the matchup owning more losses than wins to their name. More of the same will be required tonight in order to remove the bitter taste that remains from a road trip that took the Rockets to a place they had hoped to avoid, and one that must be escaped as soon as possible.
Know Thy Enemy
– Utah is not a good offensive team, but its cadre of young talent can show significant glimpses of its rather sizable potential from time to time – as the Rockets discovered the hard way during their December defeat to the Jazz.
Alec Burks is crafty, can get to the line, and is good in catch-and-shoot situations (Synergy places him in the 84th percentile in that category). As is the case when defending all such shooters, Burks must be made to put the ball on the floor; he’s hit fewer than 33 percent of his off-the-dribble jump shots this season.
Gordon Hayward has really struggled with his shot this year but remains a terrifically skilled player who can fill up the stat sheet in myriad ways. Pay particularly close attention to him on dribble hand-offs where he poses a dual threat as both scorer and playmaker while charging downhill with a head of steam.
Enes Kanter is an offensive rebounding machine. He’s already corralled five offensive boards or more five times this month – a feat he accomplished in just a single half against Houston last November. The 21-year-old still leaves a lot to be desired defensively, but his March numbers – 13.3 points and 10.4 rebounds while playing fewer than 30 minutes per contest – demand attention.
And last but not least, Trey Burke has been prone to the roller coaster ride that doubles as virtually every rookie point guard’s inaugural season, but he, too, has already given the Rockets reason to be wary. His 21-point, 6-assist, zero-turnover masterpiece last December saw him play with a poise and savvy that belied his age and experience. Houston’s defenders need to make him uncomfortable early and often, a task to which Patrick Beverley should be well suited.
– Keen an eye on the right corner when Utah has the ball. The Jazz are shooting better than 41 percent from that location; quite a contrast from the 32.5 percent mark they’ve posted on corner 3s from the opposite end of the court. And though Richard Jefferson is in the twilight of 13-year NBA career, he’s enjoying one of his finer seasons from beyond the arc, knocking down more than 42 percent of his attempts from downtown while approaching a 50 percent hit rate from the corners (48.1 percent, to be exact).
– On the defensive end of the floor, it’s harder to find silver linings in Utah these days. The Jazz are dead last in half-court defense per Synergy, and 25th in transition. Digging deeper into the numbers, Utah is last in defending post-ups, 29th against spot-ups and isolations, and 27th when defending the pick-and-roll. If those numbers aren’t enough to get the Rockets salivating, this should put them over the edge: No team gives up more pace-adjusted paint points per game than do the Jazz.
In the spotlight
Chandler Parsons is due. While his Florida Gators have rampaged their way through March, Parsons has now gone 10 games without reaching the 20-point plateau. During that span he’s averaging 11.4 points per game while shooting 35.7 percent from the field and just 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. He’s far too good for this rough stretch to last much longer, and a visit from Utah’s last-ranked D should help spur him out of his slump. And for what it’s worth, the last time Parsons played the Jazz (he missed Houston’s December loss due to injury) he led the Rockets in points, rebounding and assists while racking up 24, 12 and 6 in those categories respectively.
Greg Smith (knee) is out.