Final Score: Rockets 104, Jazz 93.
Truly a tale of two-halves, so let’s take a look at what went right in the 1st-half and what went wrong in the 2nd-half.
Jazz 56, Rockets 40
How Utah got the lead:
Matt Harpring made a great point in identifying Utah trying really hard to involve Dwight Howard in screen-roll. In high screen-roll Howard basically just hung out at the top of the restricted area allowing Utah (particularly Gordon Hayward) to take wide-open mid-range jumpers.
Best Jazzbasketball Play: 4:07 2nd-Qtr – Against Phoenix the JBB play of the game was an open Lucas 3pt out of the UCLA set. Tonight, the first option was there with Hayward cutting through and backscreening for Burks who cut along the baseline for the layup. Mike Harris was at the 4 and hit Burks the moment he came free from the high-post.
2.) Offensive Rebounds
One night after grabbing 10 offensive rebounds against the Suns, Enes Kanter was again terror on the offensive glass. Not only did Kanter grab 5 offensive rebounds in the first half, he also drew loose-ball fouls going after two others so he was responsible for 7 Jazz second-chance possessions in the first 24 minutes. A lot of his offensive rebounds came in transition, where he was able to get down the court ahead of Houston’s bigs before anyone could put a body on him.
As a team the Jazz out-rebounded the Rockets 27-12 in the first-half, including a 38% offensive rebound rate. The Jazz had grabbed 33% of available offensive rebounds in the first two games, which ranked second in the league.
The Jazz played active defense and took advantage of Houston miscues to create transition opportunities.
Example #1: On Howard’s first post-up Favors pushed him baseline (Howard normally likes to roll into the middle of the lane) and Kanter came over and blocked his reverse layup attempt – not only saving 2-points but giving Utah 2 FT’s off a transition foul drawn by Hayward.
Houston had poor floor-balance offensively and because the Jazz played tough interior defense, on defensive rebounds Utah looked to push the basketball and often ended up with numbers advantages.
Example #2: 1:29 1st-Qtr – Howard missed a jumphook over Gobert (who did a nice job challenging) where Houston had two other plays on the baseline. Hayward tapped the rebound out to Kanter who outlet to Burks which started a 3-on-2 Jazz break that Burks finished with typical Burks mid-air maneuvering layup around Jeremy Lin for a 22-14 lead.
Rockets 64, Jazz 37
How Houston erased the lead:
1.) Attacking the Basket
On Houston’s first possession of the 3rd-qtr, Harden drove hard off high screen-roll and got 2 FTs.
2nd possession: Harden drive and kick-out to Lin for a three
3rd possession: Lin penetrated but missed a 6-footer that was negated due to basket-interference.
4th possession: Parsons drove but missed a layup at rim.
5th possession: Harden drew 2 FTs at rim off drive to basket off a steal.
6th possession: Harden strong drive and missed layup at rim.
7th possession: Harden missed 3pt.
8th possession: Lin drive off high screen-roll and drew 2 FTs at rim.
9th possession: Parsons drove straight to rim in transition and drew 2 FTs.
10th possession: Harden hit an open three in transition.
11th possession: Harden scored a fastbreak layup off a Utah turnover
After 11 possession and less than 5 minutes into the quarter, Utah’s 16-point lead had shrunk to three. In that span, the Jazz shot 1-9 with 2 turnovers and only 2 FG attempts in the paint.
Houston came out determined to attack attack attack – and while they weren’t perfect at converting, their relentless assault on the rim wore Utah’s interior defense down.
Houston’s next 6 points came on two Howard layups at the rim and a Harden FT off another foul at the rim where they tied the game at 60-60.
2.) Defensive Pressure
Defending screen-roll Houston’s bigs were more aggressive stepping out and forcing Utah’s playmakers to give up the ball. As a result, you had plays like Rudy Gobert rolling to the rim where he missed a layup and then was called for basket interference, Mike Harris missing two long-range jumpers and John Lucas missing two open threes from the left-corner. In the 2nd-half Houston played the percentages that Utah’s fringe offensive players couldn’t beat them and they were right.
Utah’s most consistent offense in the second half came on three John Lucas fade-away jumpers off-the-dribble. They were difficult shots by Lucas that kept the Jazz within striking distance, but that speaks volumes about the type of looks the Jazz were getting.
Even the rebounding numbers went the other way as Houston outrebounded Utah 28-12 in the 2nd-half and posted a 53% offensive rebounding rate. Their outhustling was most evident in plays such as at 5:09 4th-qtr when Lin pushed the ball in transition, missed a layup but Parsons (who outran Mike Harris) followed to put the Rockets up 90-85 and force a Jazz timeout.
There were also perplexing Jazz defensive breakdowns, such as 4:22 4th-Qtr with the Jazz trailing just 90-87 when John Lucas completely lost contact with Lin, leaving him wide-open for a catch&shoot 16-footer. Another bizarre breakdown came at 4:07 4th-Qtr when Kanter fell down following a missed Jazz FT, giving Houston a 5-on-4 advantage in which Harden drilled a dagger three to put the Rockets up 95-88.
With 5:01 left in the game and Houston nursing a 5-point lead, the Rockets opted to say with a small lineup when the Jazz brought Favors back in the game to play next to Kanter. The matchup put Favors on Parsons which drew Utah’s best interior defender away from the rim. As a result, Houston had a freeway to the rim with Kanter matched up on Howard – the prime example being a Lin layup over Kanter to put Houston up 7 with 3:11 left.
At the other end Utah picked up consecutive fouls on Parsons defending Favors in the post, but also had struggles where poor floor-spacing allowed Houston to easily switch Howard onto Favors mid-play (3:35 4th-Qtr) and Utah’s halfcourt offense appeared clueless at how to react.
Odds and Ends
- The Jazz received their first delay of game warning of the season when Richard Jefferson made contact with the basketball in the 1st-qtr following a Kanter layup.
- The Jazz shot 3 airballs in the 1st-qtr, with Hayward, Kanter and Favors the guilty parties.
- Favors’ 2nd-foul came on an apparent bang-bang “verticality” play on Dwight Howard beneath the rim but officials made the correct call. Favors was a split-second late getting “vertical” and actually moved slightly into Howard after Dwight was in his shooting motion. Tough call but the right one.
- If you combine Howard + Hayward while speaking, the result is what Steve Brown said at the 3:05-mark of the 2nd-Qtr
- Enes Kanter continued his streak of throwing passes to people in the front row with a 2nd-qtr bounce pass that eluded Hayward on the baseline. When he misses he’s not close but I do like that Kanter is looking to pass. He’s a young player who just needs to improve his accuracy, but the thought and recognition is there.
- There was a very minor Richard Jefferson/Francisco Garcia incident in the 2nd-qtr where after fouling RJ, Garcia gave Jefferson a little pull backwards to which Jefferson responded with a push while walking away. The referees stepped in and whistled Jefferson for a technical, and on the replay you could read Ty Corbin’s lips pleading to the refs “He hit first” while pointing at Garcia. That line didn’t work in 1st-grade and didn’t work there.
In three games this season, the Jazz have outscored their opponents in 4 of the 6 total 1st and 2nd-quarters. Conversely, Utah’s opponents have outscored the Jazz in 5 of the 6 3rd and 4th-quarters. Clearly the Jazz are having issues dealing with teams making second-half adjustments and adjusting themselves.
Some of that is to be expected from a young team, and some of that falls on the coaching staff. How much blame rests where is debatable, but if you’re good enough to gain second-half leads on teams you should be able to finish. The Deron/AK/Boozer/Okur teams became great closers and went through their growing pains during the 2005-06 season – but progress was made. The Jazz have set the bar to the point where they can compete with talented teams in the West, but can’t finish.
As the season progresses and Utah’s depth increases, we should see some tangible improvement in Utah’s ability to finish games and that’s certainly reason for excitement and optimism.
It’s an 0-3 team but not a team playing 0-3 basketball.