HOUSTON — After overcoming an 18-point first half deficit, then another 13-point second half hole, the Utah Jazz made a late push against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center Monday night.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s tip back made it 94-94 with 1:59 remaining in regulation, before reigning MVP James Harden took over.
“Some things you put in your back pocket and late in the game you know that if you get those opportunities you capitalize on them, and so it’s a game within a game,” Harden said. “You have to figure out what works for you.”
Harden ended with 47 points while going 15-for-16 at the free throw line, including a step back jump shot over Ricky Rubio in the final 13.3 seconds to lead the Rockets past the Jazz, 102-97.
On the play before that, he was fouled on another critical double stepback jumper by Rubio followed by a 3-point attempt with 54.6 seconds remaining where he knocked down three free throws to put Houston ahead, 99-94.
"I didn't see it live, I saw that video,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert. “I mean, that's a new move. I haven't seen it before."
Harden put up 29 points in the second half on 9-for-18 shooting but the Rockets were still held to 39 percent shooting from the field. Overall, Jazz coach Quin Snyder wasn’t totally disappointed in the team’s defense but admitted that it broke down in spurts.
“When we defended and didn’t essentially make mistakes, whether it be mental mistakes or fouling, we were able to get some stops,” Snyder said.
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Utah’s first loss of the season to Houston. Mitchell posted 19 second-half points after starting 2-for-8 in the first half, with the Jazz trailing 50-37 at halftime.
Mitchell was so engaged in competition during the second half, that he barely noticed the Jazz’s comeback as they opened the third quarter on a 23-10 run to tie it at 60-60.
“I thought we were down more and once we were down three, it kind of just made a switch,” Mitchell said. “It was like, ‘Oh snap, we’re right there. I didn’t know we were down only 13 at the half and I think that’s the way my reaction is the way it was.”
In the first half, the Jazz missed a boatload of layups and shots at the rim as they shot just 30.4 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3 with 12 turnovers. Houston outscored Utah 25-14 in the second quarter, despite shooting just 35.7 percent, so that’s why Mitchell was surprised that Utah only trailed by 13 after two quarters.
During the second half, is where Houston picked it up, though, fueled by Harden — who also delivered a strong one-handed jam over Gobert at 4:24 in the third.
“The dude’s just been playing,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said of Harden. “I haven’t seen too many guys that, what he’s been doing over the past couple (of) weeks, I haven’t seen too many players do that. So, it’s definitely amazing, and definitely fun to watch.”
Harden was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday and is averaging 38.6 points over his last five games.
PJ Tucker was Houston’s second-leading scorer with 16 points while Clint Capela grabbed 14 rebounds, with five blocks and five points and Gordon posted 12 points with four rebounds.
“I’m just happy to come away with the win,” Harden said. “I think everyone contributed and played well. Tonight Clint (Capela) didn’t score the ball really well, lobs were not there but he was very active, rebounding the ball, blocking shots.
“D-House (Danuel House) came up with a huge block in the fourth quarter, PJ (Tucker) made big threes, Chris (Paul) was a very good playmaker tonight, just everybody and that’s what we need consistently every single night,” he added.
Gobert finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and three swats.4 comments on this story
Jae Crowder also posted 14 points and 10 rebounds in his starting role and Rubio ended with 12 points and four assists with seven turnovers.
The Jazz face the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at home in the midst of a tough schedule after losing four of their last five contests.
“One game at a time,” Mitchell said. “If we look at it as a stretch, that’s when it starts to get monotonous and starts to get like ‘Man, it’s tough.’ We just look at it one game at a time and we thought we would’ve had this one but we have to go and get the next one.”