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Jazz switch things up and get off to a better start, but aren't happy with ending

Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder (99) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) square off during NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 20, 2019.
Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder (99) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) square off during NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 20, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the main things the Utah Jazz were determined to change in Saturday night’s Game 3 against Houston was a better start. The Jazz couldn’t afford to dig themselves a hole as they had in the first two games, particularly Game 2 when they trailed by 20 after the first quarter.

“We’ve got to come out here and set the tone and put together a game we feel good about,” said Kyle Korver, a veteran of 12 straight years of playoffs. “We haven’t played like us.”

So Jazz coach Quin Snyder decided to change his starting lineup and switch up his usual rotation and while the Jazz started better, they still went away with a 104-101 loss to the Rockets.

Jae Crowder got the start instead of Derrick Favors and the Jazz brought Royce O’Neale and Kyle Korver off the bench first, followed by Georges Niang. Favors, who arguably had played better than anyone else in the first two games of the series, was the fourth reserve into the game, not coming in until late in the opening quarter, and he only played 15 minutes when Rudy Gobert wasn't in the game.

"That's always the challenge of the playoffs, there's always things you want to do to be more effective," said Snyder. "We tried to put a few guys out there who we felt like were in position to make some shots and collective defend together. Then you try to gauge the game and how people are playing. I thought everybody we put out there, not matter how long they were out there competed."

The lineup change may not have had a lot to do with it, but Saturday’s start couldn’t have gone much better as the Jazz ran out to an 8-0 lead. Back-to-back Houston turnovers resulted in a slam dunk by Donovan Mitchell, followed by a four-point play by Mitchell when he received a pass in the left corner, actually banked it in and was fouled by James Harden.

However, the Jazz couldn’t capitalize on their quick start as they started firing up 3-pointers -- they tried six straight, making only one -- and watched their lead shrink to one at 11-10. After that the game stayed close as neither team could ever break away with the margin never getting above eight for the Jazz or six for the Rockets.

What hurt the Jazz was another poor shooting performance as they finished just 32 of 77 (41.6 percent) after shooting 39 percent in each of the first two games. From 3-point range, they made just 12 of 41 (29.3 percent), which was just slightly better than the first two games

"We got some looks we've got to take, but they didn't fall," said Snyder.

What really hurt the Jazz were the 13 misses from the free throw line in 38 attempts with eight of them coming in the third quarter.

"We didn't capitalize as much as we needed to from the foul line during that stretch in the third quarter where we had a chance to build a bit of a lead," Snyder said.

In all Snyder was happy with his team's effort and he thought they followed the gameplan for most of the night.

"I thought we laid it out there and I was proud of how we played and how we competed," he said. "But we didn't get a win tonight to reflect that."

JAZZ NOTES: Snyder received a rare technical foul late in the second quarter when he protested a non-call against Mitchell. Snyder thought Mitchell was mugged on a shot under the basket and came several feet out on the floor, arms waving, and official Ken Mauer quickly gave him a T . . . Joe Ingles and Austin Rivers also both received technical fouls earlier in the second quarter when they took turns throwing the ball at each other . . . Besides the Jazz struggling from the free-throw line, the Rockets were just 23 of 34 . . . In each of the other three NBA playoff games, the road teams, Philadelphia, Denver and Milwaukee, each won and the Rockets made it four. . . The Jazz and Rockets will play again Monday night at Vivint Arena in another game that will begin at 8:30 p.m.