SALT LAKE CITY — In the Utah Jazz’s first game at home against the Houston Rockets since getting eliminated by them in the second round of the playoffs last season on Thursday night, there was certainly a playoff atmosphere.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ejected just 2:47 into the game when he swiped a cup on his way to the bench after picking up his second questionable foul (the first came on tipoff), and from there, both Gobert’s teammates and the Vivint Arena crowd were riled up.
Utah carried its fire to a monstrous performance, as it dominated the Rockets 118-91. The Jazz have now won four of their last five games, while Houston dropped its second straight and sixth in its last eight contests. It is the second time Utah has beaten the Rockets in two meetings this season.
“Our team was prepared mentally to play. We were focused on the right things,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “We paid attention in detail on the defensive end…were focused on execution.”
Utah moved to 13-13 on the year, clawing back to the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 17 after it beat the Boston Celtics on the road. The Rockets dropped to 11-13 on the season.
Carrying much of the load for Gobert’s absence, Derrick Favors led all scorers with 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Houston lead guards James Harden and Chris Paul combined for just 27 points, with Harden’s 15 leading the Rockets.
“What he gave us tonight was unique,” Snyder said of Favors.
Said Favors: “It felt good. It felt good, just to come out, play hard, play as a team and get a win. When Rudy went out, I saw it as an opportunity for myself to take advantage of it and I did and we got a win.”
Five Jazzmen finished in double figures.
“Our team was prepared mentally to play. We were focused on the right things.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder
Snyder had particular praise for seldom-used Ekpe Udoh, who was huge in the second quarter in slowing Harden and Paul
“I wish Rudy would have been able to stay in the game,” Snyder said. “More than what happened to Rudy, the story was what Favors and Ekpe were able to do.”
With the game tied at 16 at the 4:14 mark of the first quarter, a fired up Utah squad went on an 11-0 run to open up a double-digit lead before Houston guard Eric Gordon stopped the bleeding with a layup.
The Jazz led 27-18 after the first frame as they shot 10 of 20 from the field compared to just 6 of 23 from the Rockets. In an incredibly physical quarter, 12 personal fouls were called, leading to a combined 13 free throws.
The physicality died down a bit from there, but Utah stretched its lead up to 15 points at 49-34 with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter, before Houston went on a bit of a run to cut the deficit to 53-45 at halftime.
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Source:: Deseret News – Sports News