HOUSTON — Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio all strolled into the interview room together to answer postgame questions at the Toyota Center.
Each Utah Jazz player offered different explanations, with no excuses, for the 122-90 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their first-round series, but the 32-point loss was a significant one in franchise history whether they were aware or not.
Sunday’s loss marked the second-largest playoff loss in team history, only behind the 96-54 loss to the Chicago Bulls during Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
“Honestly, we could’ve won this game by 90, lost this game by 90 or lost it by one,” said Mitchell, who ended with 19 points and five rebounds along with zero assists and five turnovers.
“It’s still a loss, it’s still a win. It’s not like they get two wins, so for us it’s just about making adjustments, not overreacting to what happened,” he continued. “There were times where we followed the game plan and they hit shots, late shot clock and they hit shots, we turned the ball over. There was a lot of things we can control and I think that’s what we’re kind of looking into, we can control a lot of the things that went wrong and I think if we just go back and look at ourselves, we can say, ‘Look, what can we do better?’ and ‘What do we need to work on?’”
With Game 2 set for Wednesday, Game 1 ended up being a disaster.
Despite falling behind by 17 points in the first half, the Jazz would get within 66-61 after a 17-7 run to start the third capped by a pull-up jump shot by Mitchell at 7:57 in the third, only for momentum to shift yet again with the Rockets building an 83-71 lead entering the fourth then outscoring Utah 39-19 in the final 12 minutes.
“Our energy wasn’t where it needed to be,” Rockets star James Harden said of the beginning of the third quarter. “We knew they were going to make a run, obviously.
“It wasn’t that bad, we just didn’t do anything defensively to work into their bodies and offensively we were slow so it was a combination of both,” he continued. “We changed both of those, picked our pace up offensively and defensively and got into their bodies, made them take tough shots.”
Harden ended with a game-high 29 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds but shot 11-for-26 from the field with five fouls as the Jazz strongly shaded him to his right hand defensively. Eric Gordon was the second-leading scorer with 17 points while Clint Capela matched up against Rudy Gobert with 16 points and 12 boards. Chris Paul added 14 points with seven assists.
Gobert led the Jazz with 22 points and 12 rebounds but the team connected on just 39 percent from the field with 19 turnovers to Houston’s 12 and 50.5 percent shooting.
After being inactive for the final three games of the regular season with a left quad contusion, Rubio reentered the starting lineup to post 15 points with six assists for the Jazz.12 comments on this story
Houston outscored Utah 62-42 in the paint but even with the big win, Harden is careful not to let it spill over into Game 2 based on their previous experience last season.
“I don’t mean to bring up last year, but we played pretty well in Game 1 last year and in Game 2 they came in and beat us so just trying to keep the guys,” Harden said. “Chris (Paul) mentioned a few times after Coach brought it in that it’s only one game, they’re going to make adjustments and we have to make adjustments and we have to play that much harder and smarter. So we’ll let it sink in, then we’ll be ready to go into practice and watch film.”