Rockets 120, Jazz 99 - Didn't Even Matter

By Forrest Walker on December 18, 2017
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The Utah Jazz had won two of three quarters and led going into the fourth. They had harried and frustrated the Houston Rockets all night, and led by eight with just under ten minutes left in the game. The Jazz had dragged themselves into the final furlong against the white-hot Rockets. They give it their all. They nearly got there. But in the end, it didn't even matter. The Rockets won by 21.

The bad news, from a Houston perspective, is that Trevor Ariza played 41 minutes and Harden played 38. It likely won't be this hard against most teams, with the Jazz having (prior to this game) a  very favorable net rating, landing them in the top quarter of the league by most metrics. With Luc Richard Mbah a Moute still nursing his shoulder injury, these kind of games are in danger of becoming all too common. If the Rockets plan to make serious noise in May, they have to be fresh and ready for the playoffs. This is the opposite of doing that.

The good news, on the other had, is that the Rockets seem increasingly impervious to any and all attack. They sleepwalked their way through three quarters before deciding to stab the Jazz in the collective gut and leave them for dead. Rodney Hood, for instance, was an absolute hellion, scoring 26 points on 10-18 shooting, including an amazing 5-10 from deep. Not enough. He ended the night with an improbable +/- of -1.

The hero of the night was Eric Gordon, who took on extra responsibilities and passed with flying colors. His 33 points led the game, and he did it on an illegal 12-18 shooting, including a truly immoral 7-12 from deep. On a night where it seemed like nobody in red could find the bottom of the rim, Eric did over and over again.

Chris Paul continues to cook. His 18 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists were just shy of a triple double, and it still doesn't do justice to just how badly he sauteed the Jazz. The Rockets' 41-15 final frame had his fingerprints all over it, as much if not more than James Harden. Harden may still be playing though knee pain, but it's clear this team can dominate with even half a Harden. That's the luxury of having Chris Paul.

The Rockets, as noted, finished the game on a 41-15 run to sew up another double digit lead where there was a deficit before. It's become predictable. At some point in the game, the Rockets will find a way to go on a ludicrous run, usually in the 25-5 range. Sooner or later, the opposing defenses will break, the Rockets will tighten the noose of their own, and for about five minutes, the Rockets will run roughshod over some poor team. After that, no matter how hard you tried, or how far you came, it's over. You can play well for 43 minutes. But if you leave even 5 minutes on the table, it doesn't matter.

That's what happened to the Jazz. They did everything they could. They nearly made it. But it wasn't enough.

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