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Instant analysis: Jazz come away with a win despite Rockets’ 4th-quarter surge

SHARE Instant analysis: Jazz come away with a win despite Rockets’ 4th-quarter surge

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots during an NBA game against the Houston Rockets at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 12, 2021.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the shorthanded Houston Rockets 114-99 at Vivint Arena on Friday behind a 28-point, eight-assist performance from Donovan Mitchell in the first game of the second half of the season, improving the Jazz’s record to 28-9.

High notes

  • Less than three minutes into the third quarter, the Jazz were already up by 21. This wasn’t going to be a game that the Jazz were going to be in danger of losing unless something disastrous happened. Listen, I know that they let things get a little too close at one point, but they were always the more talented team on the floor and I don’t think they were ever going to allow Houston to take over.
  • That being said, this insanely depleted, injury-plagued, drama-laden Rockets team full of second unit and G League players deserves a ton of credit for how they played on Friday. They played super hard and they were scrappy on the defensive end. The Rockets did not make things easy for the Jazz and forced a ton of turnovers.

  • When the Jazz were up by just five points in the fourth and Quin Snyder called a timeout, the Jazz came back in and scored on a bucket from Mitchell and then they forced a shot clock violation before Royce O’Neale hit a 3-pointer on the other end. It was very, very easy for this Jazz team to put the lead back into double digits.
  • There’s this thing that Mike Conley is really good at. When he’s in the pick and roll with Rudy Gobert, he is very deliberate and slows down in the paint with a few dribbles and has a pretty easy short shot by the time he’s like 5 feet from the basket. Since Gobert is right there as a lob or pocket pass threat, the defense stays just far away enough from the ball-handler for a release. Mitchell is getting better at this and I have to think that being around Conley and seeing him have so much success with it has helped.
  • When Joe Ingles gets a pass and just goes into shooting motion without hesitation it’s really satisfying. So often he gets rightly criticized for hesitating from the 3-point line, so when he just goes for it, it’s great.
  • Kevin Porter Jr. is a special player. He finished with 27 points, eight assists, two blocks and a steal to lead the Rockets. I’m glad he’s getting a shot in Houston.

“He does have a serene-ness to him. He’s just composed for a young kid, doesn’t get to high or too low and that’s a steadying thing for the group.” —Rockets head coach Stephen Silas

Low notes

  • The Jazz led by as many as 24 and seemed to be on their way to an easy win, which would allow a chance for newcomer Ersan Ilyasova to get some time on the floor. But then the Jazz let down their guard and the Rockets cut the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter. The Jazz are clearly better than they played through the first few minutes of the fourth, and it’s honestly not a long-term concern as far as skill level is concerned. But they had a good opportunity to get the stars off the court early and get Ilyasova some run and they blew that opportunity by playing very badly for a few minutes.
  • I noticed quite a bit of negative reaction on social media to the way the Jazz played in the second half and I totally get it. I get being disappointed with the easily avoidable mistakes and the bad shot selection and being outrebounded by a team with barely any size at all. I get all that. But let’s look at this game in some wider context. The Jazz have had a rough week, mourning a member of the organization in Doug Birrell, who was the massage therapist for the team for more than 20 years and died over the All-Star break. And it was the first game after the break and they were going up against one of the worst teams in the league. All that combined, it’s pretty hard to expect them to play their absolute best. I know it’s not a great look but they got the win, so it’s not all horrible. With that being said, Snyder was not as forgiving as I was.

“Very poor on a lot of levels. We gave up the paint, gave everything. We gave up the paint, gave up 3s. We were lucky they didn’t make more shots, because we were porous defensively. We executed the last three minutes, but we had a 21-point (lead), and we let up. They had everything they wanted on the offensive glass, 20 offensive rebounds, and we turned it over 20 times. Wasn’t a lot that we did well tonight.” —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Flat notes

  • Almost everything to do with the Houston Rockets is just sad. Injury issues, multiple players have wanted out, COVID-19 issues, and all in Stephen Silas’ first year as head coach. It’s just a mess and I honestly feel bad for them and especially feel bad for Silas. I sincerely hope that he’s able to stay on as head coach for enough time to really have a squad to work with.