They just competed and that’s the main thing. When we do that, we can stay in the game and we didn’t have enough at the end and couldn’t get stops in the fourth quarter and that can happen. —Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
HOUSTON — Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” blasted throughout the Toyota Center Monday.
Confetti rained from the ceiling.
For three quarters, the Utah Jazz seemed to be in position to upset the NBA’s hottest team at home.
But the final 12 minutes proved to be a different story as the Houston Rockets stormed back to win 120-99.
“They are that good of a team,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “And it showed why they’re where they are, why they’ve won as many in a row as they have and I think our guys also showed tremendous character given the circumstances.”
Houston has now won 14 straight games since Chris Paul has returned from suffering a bruised left knee. Paul was recently named Western Conference Player of the Week and finished with 18 points, 10 dimes and nine boards to help the Rockets go on a 41-15 run in the fourth quarter.
Eric Gordon came off the bench to post a season-high 33 points, with 14 in the fourth. He went 5 for 6 from long range during that stretch, draining three straight 3’s at 9:30, 8:54 and 8:28 to give the Rockets the edge after trailing by eight without James Harden on the floor.
“It’s tough when you got what we’ve got,” Paul said. “We’ve got all the shooters around and then when me and James (Harden) are in there together, you trap us and you’re leaving one of us naked.”
In Utah’s last trip to Houston, Harden burned the Jazz for a career-high 56 points with 13 assists but ended with a more reasonable 26 points, six assists, six rebounds and five turnovers this time around while battling a bruised right knee.
“The fourth quarter we locked down, we locked down and got stops,” said Harden. “Obviously, Eric (Gordon) got hot, but you know that led us to getting stops. First three quarters, we didn’t get stops consistently, and so we really couldn’t get out in transition but we got stops and knock down threes, game’s over.”
After the third quarter, Utah led 84-79 while shooting a blazing 62.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3 during that stretch.
Jazz guard Ricky Rubio scored nine of his 14 in the third and Hood hit eight of his team-high 26 points. However, they couldn’t sustain that effort once the Rockets got going.
Houston got to the line for 27 free throw attempts, making 23, and drained 17 of 43 3s for 39.5 percent, but the fourth quarter is when things got really ugly for Utah as they were held to 28.6 percent from the field while allowing Houston to make 75 percent of its shots.
“It was kind of everything,” Hood said. “They got going in transition and made some one-on-one moves. Sometimes we just didn’t stay together in the fourth quarter they that made that run (25-5) and it started to come back and they had multiple runs.”
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell was rather quiet with six points and four steals on the night as Utah played without Derrick Favors (concussion protocol), Raul Neto (concussion) and Rudy Gobert (right knee MCL sprain).
Joe Ingles posted 17 points and four assists, Joe Johnson ended with 12 points as the team only made six turnovers. The game wasn’t all bad for Utah, but transition defense and effort on the glass resulted in its sixth loss in seven games.
Utah (14-17) will travel to Oklahoma City on Wednesday for its sixth straight road game amid the toughest stretch of any NBA team this month.
“They just competed and that’s the main thing,” Snyder said. “When we do that, we can stay in the game and we didn’t have enough at the end and couldn’t get stops in the fourth quarter and that can happen.
“I could say we ran out of gas and they just continued to put pressure on us.”