SALT LAKE CITY — They did it before — less than a week ago, in fact — but winning another game in Houston against a team on the verge of closing out a best-of-7 series will be a tough task for the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz will try to keep their season alive Tuesday night at the Toyota Center when they take on the Rockets in a 6 p.m. (MT) game. Utah is coming off a pair of double-digit losses at home in which the Rockets dominated from start to finish for the most part and now trail 3-1 in the series.
The big problem for the Jazz is on the offensive end. They’ve held the Rockets to under 50 percent shooting in all four games and the league’s most prolific 3-point shooting team to just 33.5 percent from 3-point range and under 30 percent the last three games.
However, the Jazz haven’t made it to 100 points in each of their three losses, averaging just under 92 points per game. They were able to generate 116 points in their only win in the series last Wednesday in Houston.
The big problem Sunday night was all the layups the Jazz missed, 22, according to Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, as they managed just 38.6 percent shooting for the night. Donovan Mitchell missed a couple of wide-open shots at the rim, including a dunk and was blocked on a few more, while Joe Ingles missed a wide-open layup as did Jae Crowder, who had a tough night in going 1 of 11 from the field.
“We missed 22 shots at the rim. We had our chances and didn’t convert,” said Snyder. “Some of them were contested and some were open. But you are not going to get a better shot — 45 attempts at the rim and missed 22 . . . that’s tough to overcome.”
“We missed shots we normally make,” added Mitchell. “We didn’t play well the entire game and we need to make sure we play better for a longer period of time in order for us to win.”
“Today was tough, just to get off and generate a lot of offense to go our way,” said Crowder. “We went on runs, but the few times we did, we couldn’t sustain it.”
One of the positives on the Jazz side was how they didn’t quit after being down by 19 points late in the third quarter. They cut the lead to five with five minutes left in the game, but couldn’t get any closer.
“That game could have easily been a blowout and obviously 13 points is not a close game, but I thought the way our team is able to cut it the way they did says a lot about who they are,” said Snyder. “There’s no moral victories. We gave ourselves a chance to be in the game but didn’t make enough plays to come out on top Houston’s that good. Give them credit they know how to control a game, in spite of that, we took shots and kept coming and kept coming and eventually couldn’t get over the hill.”
A big problem for the Jazz will be the availability of several key players who have been injured during the playoffs. Ricky Rubio went down with a left hamstring injury in the first quarter of Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, while Dante Exum suffered a similar injury to his left hamstring in the third quarter Sunday night. They've both been ruled out for Tuesday's game.
Derrick Favors sprained his left ankle in the third quarter of Friday’s game but played limited minutes (17) Sunday night. His status was up in the air as of Monday evening.
One player who filled in nicely, and may be counted on Tuesday, is backup point guard Raul Neto, who scored nine points with a couple of assists in 18 minutes Sunday.
“It’s tough losing two games here, but they still have to win one more game,” said Neto. “We’re going to fight to the end and keep getting better and keep improving and try to get a win in Houston.”