The Jazz fall short in Houston

Another early deficit leads to a big comeback, and heartbreak at the end for the Jazz
Jan 20, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Fred VanVleet (5) controls the ball as Utah
Jan 20, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Fred VanVleet (5) controls the ball as Utah / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz embarked on their 6-game road trip with a game against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, a team that had lost 6 of their last 9 games. With the Jazz having won 15 of their prior 20 games, it was a meeting of teams heading in different directions.

The Jazz led this game 17-16 with around 5 minutes left in the first quarter and were down only 2 at the 1:45 mark (26-24). Then they allowed Houston to go on a mini-run to close out a back-and-forth period that had 10 lead changes and saw the Rockets flying all over and contesting nearly every Jazz shot.

Houston continued to have their way in the 2nd quarter, going up 64-51 at the half. The Jazz couldn't keep up with Alperen Sengun, who had 17 first-half points, mostly in the paint.

In the 3rd, the Utah Jazz came out and got in the game, with Lauri Markkanen hitting 2 early three-pointers and Simone Fontecchio adding another to close the lead. The Jazz outscored the Rockets 38-25 to tie the game at 89 heading into the 4th quarter.

The 4th quarter was a struggle as there were stretches where neither team could score, but it ended up 115-all as the game headed to overtime.

In overtime, the Jazz had the lead, at 126-123 with 1:35 remaining, before things got tight once again as Alperen Sengun scored an AND-1 and tied the game at 126. The Rockets got to the line again, as Jabari Smith made 1-2 to give them a 1-point lead, and Jordan Clarkson's final shot missed, giving Houston the win 127-126.

A few notes about the game:

Oklahoma City showed a blueprint for taking Lauri Markkanen out of the offense - throw an extra defender at him before the ball arrives, play him physically, and deny him the ball. Houston utilized some of that tonight and Lauri wasn't a huge factor, going 8-18 from 2 and 3-11 from 3, for 22 points on the night.

Houston had 23 offensive rebounds on the night, compared to 16 for the Jazz. Houston isn't a good offensive-rebounding team (23rd in the NBA). Utah needs to clean this up as it can swing a close game easily.

Collin Sexton played another strong game, with 28 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals, but as with most of the team struggled with 11-27 shooting.

With 2 straight losses (though competitive ones), the Jazz need to find their groove and get back to winning games. They will have a chance on Tuesday, facing the New Orleans Hornets who have lost 3 of their last 5. Let's hope they can get back on track and stay in the playoff hunt.

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