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Houston Rockets Recap: Rebounds Drown Rockets in Loss to Utah

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Houston Rockets Recap: Depth and Effort Cause Back-to-Back Losses

The starting combination of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors in the front court was a little much for Terrence Jones and Dontas Motiejunas in Salt Lake City last night. Along with Jones and Motiejunas, the Rockets started James Harden, Patrick Beverly and Trevor Ariza while the Jazz completed their roster with Gordon Hayward, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.

. 91. 169. 109. 118

The Rockets clearly missed their beloved big man again tonight in a 109-91 blowout to the Utah Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena. Although Dwight Howard got some good work in before the game, he wasn’t much help once the teams started playing as he’s not expected back for another two weeks.

Second-year Duke alum Rodney Hood drew the initial assignment on the MVP-favorite James Harden while Ariza matched up with the Jazz’ best player Gordon Hayward. Hayward sat out against the Knicks with a lower back strain on Tuesday night.

The Utah Jazz defense since the All-Star break has been outstanding, holding teams to the second-least amount of points per game at 95.8. On Friday the Rockets were held too 91 points  – 12 points below their season average.

Big Man Trouble:

The talk of the game was the 2nd year center Rudy Gobert who was spotlighted in this year’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge during 2015 All-Star Weekend in NYC. In the first half Gobert notched a double-double 14 points and 18 boards, 11 on the offensive end.

Mar 12, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) boxes out Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) during the first half at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After trading Enes Kanter last month to the Thunder, the numbers for Gobert and Favors have shot up including 33 minutes, 10 points and 13 boards for Gobert and 34 minutes, 19 points and 9 rebounds for Favors. Both players had big nights against the Rockets. Gobert sprained his ankle late in the third, but that didn’t stop him from putting up a career night.

This not only left Rockets fans pleading for Dwight Howard to come back, but also leaves a nasty taste in everyone’s mouth with DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers scheduled for Sunday.

The Rockets will need Jones, Motiejunas, Josh Smith and Joey Dorsey to step up and play significant minutes if the Rockets want to nail down a first round home playoff match-up. Houston will need to eclipse their 43.8 average of rebounds per night, which is good for 13th in the league, if they want to contend with the larger teams in the Western Conference.

 

Mar 12, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) goes up for a dunk during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Sixth Man of the Year?

Corey Brewer had another huge night where he quickly jumped into the game and produced for the struggling starting lineup of the Rockets. He went 4/5 shooting for 9 points in the first half. After halftime most of the Rockets packed it in for the night, but not Brewer, he hustled for steals, played defense the entire game and always pushed the ball down court when he got it in his hands. RSN and Rockets announcer Bill Worrell said it best, “Brewer just never stops playing hard, gives 100 percent all of the time.” Brewer finished the terrible loss with 25 points and 5 rebounds.

Pros:

  • Dwight will be back eventually. He told Lisa Salters on Thursday that “two weeks” is a solid timetable to expect him back. Not only do they need Dwight’s presence as a shot blocker, but keeping him on the court causes plenty of bad match-ups no matter who the Rockets are playing.
  • The only other good thing for the Rockets is that they will get another chance against the young Jazz squad. The last game of the season, which could be very important for the Rockets playoff seeding, will come down to a home game against the Jazz. The game is scheduled for April 15th and Dwight Howard should be back and playoff-ready for his match-up with Gobert.

Cons:

  • Rockets couldn’t get a defensive rebound if their contracts depended on it. Gobert had 12 offensive rebounds alone in the game, Coach McHale seemed like he wanted to get off the bench and do a boxing-out drill mid-game.
  • The Rockets allowed 6 players from the Jazz to score in double digits including Hayward with 29, Hood with 20, Gobert with 19 and Exum, Ingles and Favors all with 10. The entire team needs to pick up the defensive intensity near and away from the goal.
  • James Harden is clearly exhausted. He doesn’t have a ton of help and he hasn’t gotten to the line as much as the rest of the season. When a player gets tired and can’t attack the basket, he shoots. Harden was 3/13 from the field and 0/5 from downtown, safe to say he couldn’t do it alone. Thankfully Corey Brewer is playing fantastic, but it hasn’t been translating to wins for the Rockets.

Team Leaders:

Houston Rockets:

Corey Brewer:

  • 25 points
  • 5 boards

Utah Jazz:

Rudy Gobert

  • 19 points
  • 22 rebounds
  • 4 blocks

Final Thoughts:

Rockets were man-handled by the bigger Utah Jazz team on Friday night. They will need to come out a lot hotter on the road when they have such a huge disadvantage in the paint. When Dwight comes back they can live with slow starts, but the Jazz, especially Gobert, came out and punched the Rockets in the mouth tonight. This is back-to-back games where the Rockets were out-rebounded by over 20 boards, against Portland…maybe, but the Utah Jazz? Coach and the team will need to turn around the effort on the boards to really contend the rest of the season.

As mentioned, the Rockets will travel to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for a matinee battle against Chris Paul and the Clippers. The two teams are separated by 1-game and will be fighting for the 4th seed come Sunday.

Next: Why Rockets Championship Hopes Could Be Wishful Thinking

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