SALT LAKE CITY — On the second night of a back to back, Houston Rockets floor general Chris Paul proceeded to dribble the shot clock out to end regulation after making a steal off Donovan Mitchell.
In the process, he spotted James Harden’s mom, Monja Willis, sitting courtside then high-fived her out of bounds.
Although Paul was hit with a late turnover with just 10.4 seconds remaining in the game, the gesture was symbolic of the night in Salt Lake City.
The Rockets rallied back from a 15-point hole to steal their 13th consecutive victory on the road against the Utah Jazz, 96-85, without Eric Gordon and Clint Capela who both suffered illnesses.
“Absolutely. That was a big grind-out game for us,” Paul said. “We got here, didn’t know guys were going to be out, but that’s what it’s been like all season-long, next man up.”
Riding an 11-game win streak entering All-Star break, the Jazz have now dropped two of three after the dry period. The Jazz racked up 22 turnovers, with Mitchell accounting for eight of those.
The star rookie scored 16 points but shot just 6 for 15 from the field and 1 for 9 from 3. He was visibly frustrated after the loss.
“We just weren’t connected as a group,” Mitchell said. “On offense, 22 turnovers you can’t win a game like that. We played well defensively but when you turn the ball over like that you can’t win.”
Utah Jazz Guard Donovan Mitchell Praises Teammates, Addresses Media After Loss to Houston Rockets: https://t.co/MCkjOezOiR via— Bobby Macey (@BobMacey) February 27, 2018
Most of the turnovers were unforced errors, bad passes and flat-out mental mishaps.
The Rockets would shoot just 43 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from 3, but went on a 31-19 run in the third to take control of the game.
Houston’s streak of 55 consecutive games with 10 or more 3-point shots has now ended as the Rockets went 9-for-32. Defense wasn’t the issue for the Jazz, though.
“We’ve just got to find that chemistry again we had before the break,” said Derrick Favors, who ended with eight points and seven rebounds. “Where other guys know where other guys are going to be at, taking care of the ball, being a lot stronger so it’s something we’ve got to work on.”
Paul finished with 15 points and six assists while MVP frontrunner James Harden posted 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists with seven turnovers. The unlikely hero of the night for the Rockets was forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. He shot 7-for-7 from the field and nailed both of his treys.
After the Jazz held the Rockets to their lowest scoring half of the season, 44-39, they came out with a much different mindset in the second half with Mbah a Moute contributing big down the stretch.
“Just taking advantage of opportunities,” said Mbah a Moute. “I just played the game calm, and James (Harden) and CP (Chris Paul) did a good job of setting things up, and the rest is history.”
Utah was also playing without backup point guard Raul Neto who missed his third consecutive game with a right ankle sprain. Rudy Gobert was the anchor defensively, but also led the squad offensively with 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Ricky Rubio ended with 14 points and five assists while Jae Crowder added 12 points in 29 minutes off the bench.
Limiting mental mistakes will be the point of emphasis over these next few days as the Jazz will have time to think about the latest loss.
Utah (31-30) won’t play again until Friday against Minnesota on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. in Vivint Arena. This one was tough to swallow.
“It’s hard. Some of the turnovers there isn’t any (explanation),” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Just don’t throw the pass, because there is a guy there. You can’t throw the ball to the other tea. We had a lot of turnovers that were just careless.”