Coming off a four game losing streak, the Rockets were facing one of the few teams I truly despise. The only time I remember crying from a sporting event came at the hands of the Jazz. But Utah has had their fair share of struggles this season as well. After starting 15-5, the Jazz are just 9-8 since including a loss Friday. The two teams have split the season series 2-2 each of the last 2 seasons.
After a blowout loss to the Magic last night, and a heartbreaking three-point loss to the Blazers on Wednesday, the Rockets looked to bounce back at home against a formal foe. Too bad the result was eerily similar to the Blazers game.
The Rockets came out hitting on all cylinders, building a double-digit lead in the first half. They had built a 52-38 lead by halftime. Looking sound on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, the Rockets followed Luis Scola and a huge boost by Courtney Lee off the bench, but in what seems to be a constant theme this season…this type of play didn’t last for 4 quarters. In the 3rd Quarter, Utah trailed by as many as 16 points but held Houston to 13 field goals after halftime to close the gap.
The Rockets had no answer for the Jazz big men, continuing to prove how bad Chuck Hayes is missed. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combined for 51 points and 23 rebounds. To put it in perspective the Rockets only had 31 rebounds as a team. Jefferson has had past success against the Rockets. His last four games against the Rockets; Fat Al has posted 20, 26, 36, and 34. While Al kept the Jazz in the game early on, it was Millsap who closed it out. He hit five buckets in a row in OT to put the Jazz up for good scoring 12 of his 27 points in overtime.
Kyle Lowry did a nice job of Deron Williams tonight. Williams has averaged 20.5 PPG (225/11) and 11.4 APG (125/11) vs the Rockets. He is the only player in the NBA this season with multiple games of at least 30 points and 10 assists (he’s done it 3 times), but Lowry kept him in check forcing him to shoot 5-16 from the field.
I am baffled K-Mart wasn’t more of a factor on the offensive end in the 4th Quarter. This is a guy who is at the top in the league at free throw attempts per game, and the Jazz were in the penalty with 7:30 left!
The road back to .500 doesn’t get ANY easier as now there are some must win games on the schedule. Facing off against Boston and OKC in their next two, Houston must steal a couple from above .500 teams. The Rockets haven’t beaten a team over .500 since December 1st! That is more than a month this team hasn’t beaten a quality opponent. And while they must continue to beat the teams at the bottom of the league, the Rockets need to steal some games from leagues best not only for their record…but to give them a moral boost.