The Jazz faced a tough test on Thursday night when they went up against the Houston Rockets. Since the All-Star break the Rockets have been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the NBA. James Harden is also the league’s second leading scorer at 27.0 points a game. The Jazz had a chance to continue to prove their defensive abilities with a strong showing in this game. They have only given up 100 points one time (against the Lakers on 2/25) since the All-Star break. The new defensive identity suits Utah well, and it is becoming less of a surprise every time they shut down an elite team.
They got off to a great start once again, scoring the first 7 points of the contest. They continued to get good offensive chances through much of the first quarter. Rodney Hood started in place of Joe Ingles and he hit a three right out the gate. Rudy Gobert made it clear early that there would be no easy baskets inside. He had two blocks in the first four minutes. Houston went on a run to close out the quarter, bringing the Jazz lead down to 5 at the end of the first period. Despite the late Houston push, the Jazz still managed to keep up the overall defensive intensity. The first quarter came to a close with a score of 28-23 in favor of the Jazz. Utah’s largest lead was 12 points during that quarter. The Jazz also took advantage of an abundance of second chances. They finished the first with 12-second chance points off of 9 offensive rebounds. What’s most impressive about the first quarter is that Rudy Gobert became the first player in the NBA to record a double double in the first quarter. He finished with 10 rebounds, 10 points, and 2 blocks. Hayward also looked good adding 7 points. James Harden led the rockets with 7 points after 1 quarter.
The Jazz kept up their intensity early in the second quarter. They forced a couple of turnovers and continued to be impressive on the offensive glass. However, Houston’s offensive game began to pick up. With just under 8 minutes to go Josh Smith hit a three that cut the Jazz lead to 2 (36-34). A minute later Rudy Gobert tipped in his own miss to end the run. But during the first half of the quarter we saw what Houston was capable of on offense. Trey Burke was cold in his first minutes of the night. With 5:55 left in the half he was 0/6 from the floor. The Jazz overall were 3/10 from 3 point range at that point. Things got heated with about four and a half minutes left after Dante Exum was charged for a blocking foul. Quin Snyder was called for a technical. James Harden missed the technical free throw but hit the free throws for the foul making it 36-40. The technical seemed to ignite the Jazz. They went on a 7-0 run after James Harden hit his free throws. With 2:30 left in the half they had a nine-point lead. Rudy Gobert had a monster dunk and Hayward hit a basket that led to an and one opportunity. The Jazz finished the quarter strong defensively. After the Rockets went on their run the Jazz held them in check. Patrick Beverley hit a 3 with 4 seconds left to give the rockets 43 points. Hayward went down and got fouled shooting a buzzer beater and hit both of his free throws, giving the jazz a ten-point lead to go into the half. It was 53-43 for the Jazz at halftime. Rudy Gobert continued to dominate on the glass, adding 8 more rebounds and bringing his total to 18 for the game. He finished the half with 14 pts, 18 rbs, and 3 blks. Hayward finished with 13 pts, and 4 ast. Favors had 8 pts and 5 rbs for the Jazz. Harden was held to 9 points in the first half. The Jazz didn’t allow the Rockets to score 25 points in either quarter. They held them to 23 in the first and 20 in the second. Meanwhile, the Jazz were impressive offensively, scoring 28 in the first and 25 in the second.
The Jazz continued to play well in the third. However, Houston was able to score much more easily in the early going. The interior dominance and intensity wasn’t there for the Jazz during the first six minutes of the second half. However, Utah continued to score. Gordon Hayward went on a tear to start the quarter. He had 7 points in the first six minutes, increasing his total to 20. The Jazz started to pull away as the quarter went along. They built their lead to 19 with 3:44 left in the third. Gordon Hayward hit a three and then got fouled on a break to the basket to extend the lead and his point total. Joe Ingles then buried a three off a Hayward assist to give the Jazz a 22-point lead. With 3:21 to go it was 77-55 for the Jazz. Utah continued to impress as they finished out the quarter. Gobert came back into the game and picked up a few more rebounds to increase his total to 22. However, he turned his ankle but still managed to hobble through the rest of the period. The Jazz held Houston under 25 points again and added 29 of their own. The Jazz led 82-65 after 3.
The Jazz started off the 4th quarter hot. Over the first three minutes they scored 10 points. Elijah Millsap led two fast breaks. One finished by a Rudy slam, the other he finished himself with a layup. As the quarter continued Utah kept doing what we’ve come to expect over the last few weeks. Even though Houston’s pace was slightly better in the beginning of the 4th, the Jazz were scoring as well. They crossed the 100-point mark with just under 5 minutes to go after Joe Ingles hit an uncontested three. Rodney Hood reached another career high and his first 20-point game. The final score was 109-91 for the Jazz.
This win is huge for the identity of this team. They have had big wins against the top teams in the league. Since the All-Star break their defense has been better than anyone could hope for. But what makes this game so impressive is the fact that were able to score 109 points and still keep a good team in check. Gordon Hayward finished with 29 pts, 4 rbs, and 7 ast. Rodney Hood had a career high, 20 points. Rudy Gobert finished with 19 pts, 22 rbs, and 4 blks. Derrick Favors also had a nice night, with 10 pts, 8 rbs, and 4 blks. The Jazz will face Detroit on Saturday night. This will be a good chance to improve on consistency. The Jazz have had some let downs against lesser competition after big wins. Saturday will be a good chance to prove that they can take care of business against any team.
Quin Snyder – http://espn700sports.com/?p=60942
Gordon Hayward – http://espn700sports.com/?p=60948
Rodney Hood – http://espn700sports.com/?p=60954
Rudy Gobert – http://espn700sports.com/?p=60963