It might sound arbitrary and random, but there are in-game moments when the tide turns to bending wills, when sheer effort is more than enough to influence the outcome of a contest.
The Utah Jazz had lost five straight games and appeared en route to number six on Friday when they trailed the Portland Trail Blazers by 14 at the half. But in the third quarter, the Jazz reached that breaking point where enough was enough and fought their way to a 117-114 victory.
Utah now travels to face the Houston Rockets on Sunday, acutely aware of the commitment needed to win at the clip it did prior to losing to the Rockets at home on Jan. 27 — the setback that initiated the skid it snapped on Friday.
“I think there are times when you have to change what you’re doing and there are other times where you have to dig in and compete and do it better,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “More than any breakdown there were some plays in the first half that were just grit-type plays that we didn’t make. I thought you just get to a point where nothing else matters except competing and winning the game, and that usually manifests itself on the defensive end.
“Our guys put whatever else they were thinking about (aside), whether it be individual concerns or considerations or not making a shot or whatever the things are that are going through your mind that takes your focus away from the defensive end. That’s what we came out in the third quarter and did.”
Utah tumbled from second to fifth in the Western Conference standings before beating Portland and passing the Rockets in the process as Houston suffered a blowout defeat at Phoenix.
The Rockets had their modest four-game winning streak snapped in the 127-91 loss. Houston fell to 5-4 without All-Star guard Russell Westbrook (rest), who sat in the second game of a back-to-back following a riveting 10-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday at Staples Center.
“It’s tough. It’s a tough back-to-back,” Rockets forward P.J. Tucker said. “It’s tough to get back the energy and emotions from (Thursday) night. We just didn’t come out and play well.”
The Rockets’ decision to lean fully into playing small remains a talking point throughout the NBA. Houston jettisoned center Clint Capela and acquired forward Robert Covington prior to the trade deadline on Thursday. The Rockets overcame the Lakers’ significant size advantage but were hammered on the boards at Phoenix, surrendering a 51-29 rebounding edge to the Suns.
Phoenix failed to parlay that advantage into anything noteworthy offensively, recording just 11 second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds. Relatedly, the Suns shot 55.8 percent from the floor.
“The second-chance points were even. How about that?” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said with a wry smile. “Of course they didn’t miss any shots. That’s one way to get over that.”
–Field Level Media