19 February 2012
The Jekyll and Hyde show continues for the Utah Jazz. This time, both faces managed to show in this game, as it was truly a tale of two halves in Houston, with the Jazz ultimately succumbing to the hideous Hyde side late in the fourth. Also, it’s quite clear that Utah is consistent at one thing: Inconsistency.
Things were looking up for the Jazz early on. Houston had benched starting center Sam Dalembert for showing up late to a meeting earlier today, and Utah responded. Offense was clicking and points from the frontcourt of Jefferson and Millsap were coming easily and often. In fact, the duo shot 12-21 for 24 points and looked poised to be Utah’s ticket to a big road win.
The problem? Houston was answering back. Neither team really took much of an advantage, though. A 46-45 halftime score was fairly inidicative of how the first half went. Stride for stride, neither team truly doing enough on both ends collectively to pull away. The good news for the Jazz? Road wins have been scarce this year (only three in 12 attempts) and they had a great flow going. Shooting 49% and forcing 7 steals and 6 blocks showed, to me at least, that they were up for the challenge. The bad news? Kyle Lowry was doing Kyle Lowry things. Unstoppable in the first two quarters, Lowry gave Utah a taste of what ultimately would be their demise: Inability to stop opposing point guards.
We’ve seen it all year, and it’s come from unlikely suspects. Jrue Holiday, Roddy Beaubois, Darren Collison, Jarrett Jack, Jeremy Lin (although that one now feels a lot less painful)…not to mention guys like Russ Westbrook, Chris Paul and the likes of the elite. This is becoming more and more problematic, as the Jazz don’t have the luxury of a “go-to” guy who will put the team on his back to mask such shortcomings. You could argue that Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are of that mold, but unfortunately in this league (to steal from Matt Harpring’s staple phrases), that isn’t going to cut it.
Lowry went off for 18 points in the first half alone, hitting all four shots he took from beyond the arc. And, yes, the first half foul discrepancy did invoke a bit of a chin scratch from me – Houston shooting 10 free throws to Utah’s whopping ZERO – but ultimately that would even itself out (24-20 in favor of the Rockets). Yes, Luis Scola’s affinity to lie on the ground when lightly brushed or breathed upon also caused me a few fits of rage. But, again, that didn’t decide this one.
Late in the third, Utah had kept the game relatively close, but trailed 67-63 and you could just feel Houston itching to go off. In fact, I tweeted at the time "Jazz letting this one slip away...", even before the lead would open up. The line up of Favors, Kanter, Miles, Bell and Watson was tasked with not allowing many of Houston’s starters to explode. Sadly, it didn’t work. Houston opened their biggest lead of the game on a late-in-the-clock, wide open (surprise!) three by Courtney Lee to close out the quarter 72-64. That lead would eventually climb to 13 before Utah decided it would attempt to get back in it.
An 11-0 Millsap fueled run brought Utah back within 2. Shades of last year’s road game at Houston, another Millsap takeover mission, were flooding back into my mind. And then, someone killed that dream. None other than Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry drained a NASTY three pointer, sharply pulling back on an attempted drive that left the defending Alec Burks helpless with his back turned to a now wide open Lowry. And while the lead was only at five points after his shot, the effect thereof was crippling. You felt the wind leave the sails of the Jazz’s ship. A couple of extremely frustrating C.J. Miles bailout fouls followed the shot, effectively raising the white flag of surrender. Utah would go on to lose 101-85.
Everything that could’ve gone wrong in that second half did. Utah’s 49% first half shooting? Dwindled to a mere 39.5% by the end of the game. Yep. A 10-36 second half performance – 27.7% - was quite the departure from earlier on in the evening. Jefferson, Millsap and even Raja Bell did their part to keep things moving in the right direction. Utah’s bench overall were the culprits to poor offensive execution. Would you like a taste of what we watched? I thought so.
Earl Watson: 0-7 FG (0-4 3P), 0 points, 1 assist, -12. Youch. Hardly the Earl we’ve come to love.
Derrick Favors: 1-7 FG, 3-6 FT, 5 points, 4 rebounds, -12. Yuck. Forgettable performance.
C.J. Miles: 1-5 FG (1-1 3P), 3 points, 3 rebounds. C.J.’s 2 early blocks were his real saving grace tonight. His 2 late fouls that blew the game open for Houston unfortunately canceled them out.
Alec Burks: 0-3 FG, 0 points. He’s earned the playing time. Now’s not the time to force Ty to question that decision.
The only guy off the bench who gets a pass is Enes “The Menace” Kanter. A strong stat line helps. But in the long run, the stats are hollow in blowout losses. The fact that Enes had six points and seven boards in just 12 minutes of play does give me hope that he’s got his head in the right place and is simply ready to maximize every opportunity he gets, no matter how small. God bless you, Enes.
Kyle Lowry would finish the night with 32 points on 9-13 shooting (7-8 from three) and a game high +22. There’s a reason the #KLOE hashtag exists. Kyle Lowry Over Everything, y’all. At least for tonight. The good thing about Lowry going off? Point guard Jonny Flynn didn’t see a minute of time, thus preventing Utah from being the team that #Flynnsanity takes off against.
Jazz will need to have short memories and move on quickly, as a showdown with the San Antonio Spurs is only a day away. Who shows up for that game - Jekyll? Or Hyde? I have no clue, honestly. At least this team keeps us guessing and on the edge of our seats.
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