We were in attack mode. We knew how good they were defensively coming into the game, so we wanted to be aggressive, be in attack mode all in all throughout the game. —Houston's James Harden
HOUSTON — A moment of silence was offered at the Toyota Center for the Texas shooting victims in the latest American act of terror Sunday ahead of the Utah Jazz versus Houston Rockets tip-off.
At least 26 people were killed, while another 20 were injured, by a man who opened fired inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, according to CBS News.
While the Rockets were empathetic toward the situation, it didn’t stop them from going at the Utah Jazz on the hardwood.
All-Star guard James Harden entered the arena blasting 50 Cent’s “U Not Like Me” song and proved it to Jazz defenders at home as the Rockets torched Utah 137-110.
“We were in attack mode,” Harden said. “We knew how good they were defensively coming into the game, so we wanted to be aggressive, be in attack mode all in all throughout the game.”
Harden posted 30 first-half points and ended with a new career-high 56 points, 13 assists and two rebounds on 19-for-25 shooting.
Members of the World Series champion Houston Astros were in attendance as well as Olympic gymnast Simone Biles. They all watched Harden drain seven of his eight 3-point attempts before sitting with 7:13 remaining in the fourth.
“He showed why he’s a great player tonight,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Disappointed, obviously, in our group and our performance — particularly defensively.
“There just wasn’t enough resistance, there wasn’t enough toughness, and as much as anything we made so many mental mistakes that were just breakdowns in communication.”
Harden passed Moses Malone for the fifth-most points in franchise history and notched 50-plus for the sixth time since joining the Rockets. He also fell one shy of the Rockets’ franchise record of 57 posted by Calvin Murphy on March 18, 1978, against the New Jersey Nets.
“I was just shooting, I don’t really pay too much attention to it,” Harden said. “I just try to shoot, take a couple shots and pretty much make the right decision. Obviously, I’m going to make mistakes, but as long as I can have that mindset, I’ll be good.”
Houston connected on 23 total 3-pointers as a team, just missing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ record of 25 made in a regular-season game.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert said he knew Harden was feeling it as early as two minutes into the contest.
“That’s why he’s one of the best players in the world,” Gobert said. “I think he missed five shots? It was one of those nights, but I think we made him feel good by making them.”
“The Beard” set the tone in the first quarter, scorching Utah defenders for 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting. He also went 4 for 4 from beyond the arc and ended the first quarter with a three to beat the buzzer over Ricky Rubio. Harden didn’t miss his first shot until 1:38 before halftime off a floater.
Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Thabo Sefolosha, Donovan Mitchell, Ekpe Udoh, Rodney Hood and Royce O’Neale all attempted to slow down Harden, but the community effort was unsuccessful as the Jazz dropped their second straight game.
Utah has yet to win a game on the road.
“They just got going, everybody was hitting on all cylinders and it just wasn’t no resolve from us all night,” said Hood, who ended with 12 points and two assists. “No type of physicality, no nothing, and it was just free flowing for them the whole night, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Before the game, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni described the Jazz defense as “very disciplined.” Utah won the season series 2-1 in 2016-17 off 53.5 percent shooting.
With Gobert, the NBA’s shot blocking leader, anchoring the inside, Houston’s game plan was to run the ball. Houston executed its offense while shooting 59.3 from the field and 59 percent from 3.
Mitchell led the Jazz in scoring off the bench with 17 points for the second straight game to go along with four rebounds. Utah shot just 43.2 percent from the field.
After the career-night, Harden gifted 14-year-old hoops prospect Bryce Griggs of Rodeo Palms Junior High in Manvel with the red/white pair of his official in-game sneakers. Griggs and many of the other 16,914 fans in attendance will likely never forget the performance.
“It was good, I was impressed,” Griggs smiled, alongside his family and coaches outside the Rockets locker room. “Going into this game, we walked in the stadium and my family said, ‘he’s about to drop 60.’”
Utah (5-5) returns home Tuesday for the first of another four-game home stretch to host the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 p.m.