Jazz look to keep hot shooting going against Rockets
SALT LAKE CITY — Have the Utah Jazz finally turned a corner on offense?
On that end of the court, Utah feels like a different team than the one that struggled through an offensive slump for the better part of November. The Jazz head into their Thursday night showdown with the visiting Houston Rockets with tons of momentum generated from a historic shooting performance against San Antonio.
Utah beat the Spurs 139-105 on Tuesday night after making a franchise-record 20 3-pointers. The Jazz shot a season-high 60.6 percent from long range and a season-high 60.7 percent from the field.
“When you make a lot of threes, that definitely helps for sure,” Utah guard Donovan Mitchell said. “Continuing to drive the ball, finding guys on the perimeter, finding a big fella on the lob. Whatever it may be, just making the right play was huge for us.”
Evidence of making the right play showed up for Utah (12-13) in small ways. All 13 Jazz players who saw the court against San Antonio dished out at least one assist. Ten players had two or more assists.
Unselfish offense resulted in many hands shaping a win. Seven Utah players scored in double figures, led by Mitchell’s 20 points. Twelve of 13 Jazz players shot 50 percent or better from the field to help their team win for the third time in the last four games.
“We made some tough shots, but we did move the ball and got some other ones,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Any time you have a shooting night like that, you appreciate it.”
Generating offense hasn’t been the issue for Houston. Getting stops, however, has been a growing concern for the Rockets.
Houston (11-12) has allowed 116.1 points per game over its last nine games. It has caused the team’s defensive rating to tumble to 25th among NBA teams. The Rockets’ potent offense hasn’t been able to keep up at times and the result has been five losses over their last seven contests.
It proved to be the case in a 103-91 loss to Minnesota on Monday night. Houston scored only 29 points after halftime – including just nine in the fourth quarter – blowing a 19-point first-half lead.
“For whatever reason, in the second half we played without any kind of spirit or energy,” Rockets coach Mike D’ Antoni said after the game.
James Harden is doing his part, averaging 30.6 points and 8.7 assists per contest. Harden has been a thorn in Utah’s side in past seasons and will definitely be a concern for the Jazz on Thursday. He averaged 28.0 points and 7.4 assists against Utah in the Western Conference semifinals last season.
This is the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Jazz took down Houston 100-89 on October 24 behind 38 points on 14-of-25 shooting from Mitchell.
Mitchell has been highly effective on offense since returning from a two-game absence caused by a rib contusion. He is averaging 24.3 points per game over the last four contests and has shot better than 50 percent from the field in three of those games.