HOUSTON (AP)Kevin Porter Jr. scored 26 points and Jalen Green added 25 to lead the previously winless Houston Rockets to a 114-108 victory over Utah on Monday night, handing the Jazz their first loss of the season.
Utah and Portland began the day as the only undefeated teams in the Western Conference, both at 3-0. Houston entered 0-3.
”We needed one, obviously,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. ”And the way we did it where we were fighting, and we had some adversity and we fought back. They tied the game a couple of times, but we didn’t break.”
The Rockets led much of the way, building a 10-point lead in the first half, but Utah tied it before Eric Gordon’s layup gave Houston a 110-108 advantage with 1:23 remaining.
Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr., the third overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, made all four of his free throws in the last 24.5 seconds to seal it. Smith finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Porter went 9 for 9 from the free throw line and grabbed 10 rebounds.
”We knew they were coming off a back-to-back, so our whole game plan was to make them run,” Porter said. ”We needed high energy, we needed momentum, and that’s what we did.”
Green had his third straight 20-point game, shooting 9 of 16 from the field – including 4 for 8 from 3-point range.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Jazz, led by Jordan Clarkson’s 17 points. Lauri Markannen had 14, and Kelly Olynyk, Jarred Vanderbilt and Simone Fontecchio each added 13.
”Credit to Houston – they played great, their spacing was great. We did not do a good job of defending without fouling,” first-year Utah coach Will Hardy said. ”When you play an entire first half a little bit flat, you leave yourself in a situation where things don’t go your way and you end up losing the game.”
The Rockets led 51-45 following a sloppy first half that featured a combined 23 turnovers and 54 missed shots. Both teams were shooting under 24% from beyond the arc at halftime.
Houston led 21-18 after the first quarter, paced by Porter’s 10 points.
”(Porter) got going early in the first quarter, and once he did that, that got me open a lot more,” Green said. ”Once we both started getting going, that just opens up a lot more.”
The Rockets snapped a four-game home losing streak to Utah in the first leg of a home-and-home set.
Eight of Houston’s next nine games are on the road.
Houston nearly blew a double-digit lead for a second time in three games, following a 129-122 loss to Memphis on Friday, when the Rockets led by 16.
Jazz: Utah’s bench outscored Houston’s reserves 44-26. . Seven different Jazz players had at least one block. . Markannen went 0 for 6 from 3.
Rockets: Bruno Fernando (left knee soreness), Alperen Sengun (illness) and Jae’Sean Tate (left ankle soreness) sat out. . Houston rookie Tari Eason had 11 points and nine rebounds.
During a late timeout, Smith and Green appeared to be in a heated discussion. But after the game, both players downplayed the exchange. Smith said they were discussing defensive coverages.
”It was nothing,” Green said. ”Nothing at all, just the heat of the moment. All that matters is that we went out and won the game.”
HE SAID IT
”I just screamed and yelled and went bananas. It was crazy. I was throwing stuff.” – Hardy joking about what he told his players in the postgame locker room after losing his first game.
FILIPINO HERITAGE NIGHT
Houston hosted Filipino Heritage Night and gave away Filipino-themed Rockets jerseys to fans. Green and Clarkson last season became the first players with Filipino heritage to play in the same game.
The teams play again Wednesday night in Utah.
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