It’s tough to play that type of basketball, they’re running and they are making shots from everywhere, and it’s hard to help from anyone. —Ricky Rubio
OKLAHOMA CITY — Let’s rewind to Monday night. Let’s head back to H-Town.
It’s the end of the third quarter at the Toyota Center in Houston as the Utah Jazz are in town to face to Rockets. The scoreboard reads: 84-79.
And, no, the Rockets aren’t ahead.
As we go into the final 12 minutes, the Jazz are seemingly in position to snap Houston’s much publicized 13-game winning streak after Thabo Sefolosha’s floating bank shot gives Utah a eight-point edge with 9:49 remaining.
But the narrative would quickly change in that final stretch as the Rockets went on a 15-0 run, outscoring the Jazz 41-15 in the fourth to win 120-99.
“They wanted to give us layups in the first half or the first three quarters and take away our threes,” said Rockets guard James Harden. “Eventually, the three ball was going to open up, and we were going to start knocking down shots and we did that.”
Eric Gordon drained three treys in a row at one point and posted 17 of his season-high 33 points in the fourth. Houston’s 41 points in the fourth were also the most of this season.
“Yeah, I got hot,” Gordon said. “They were trapping the ball screen, and something, we was just finding the open man.
“They came up to me most of the time early on in the fourth quarter, and it’s all about knocking down shots.”
So what happened from Utah’s perspective? And how can the Jazz prevent this from happening again in Oklahoma City Wednesday night as they look to close out their final stop of a six game road trip with a victory?
“They got hot, they were making shots, and, when they play like that, they can make a run,” said Jazz guard Ricky Rubio. “It’s tough to play that type of basketball, they’re running and they are making shots from everywhere, and it’s hard to help from anyone.”
Utah (14-17) has dropped two straight and six of the last seven entering Chesapeake Energy Arena for a 6 p.m. MT tipoff Wednesday.
The Jazz could be without rookie Donovan Mitchell, who is questionable with a right great toe contusion, but Derrick Favors is questionable to return after missing the last two games with a concussion.
Amid the league’s toughest schedule for the month of December, Utah needs all the help they can get but last night’s loss wasn’t all negative, either.
“They just competed and that’s the main thing,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “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.”
Oklahoma City (15-15) is facing Utah for the third time in a four-game regular season series. Utah won the first game at home, 96-87 on Oct. 21 with Joe Ingles posting 19 points, but OKC won the most recent game at OKC, 100-94, on Dec. 5.
The Jazz also melted down in the second half in that game, allowing the Thunder to storm back from a 17-point third quarter deficit as Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double with 34 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. OKC went on a 45-22 run in the final 16 minutes, similar to what Houston accomplished in the fourth quarter.
To avoid another late-game debacle, Utah knows what it has to do to correct the mistakes. You have to compete for a full 48 minutes to close out games in this league. No excuses.
“Sometimes we just didn’t stay together in the fourth quarter when they made that run and it started to come back and they had multiple runs,” Jazz guard Rodney Hood explained after the Houston loss. “When they make a run, then we have to make one ourselves and this is something to learn from, but I feel like we played well for the most part.”