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Jazz return from break, hand Rockets 15th straight loss

Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Porter Jr.
Posted at 11:12 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-13 01:42:05-05

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Donovan Mitchell had 28 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Utah Jazz opened the second half of the season by beating the Houston Rockets 114-99 on Friday night.

Playing for the first time since March 3, the NBA leaders handed the Rockets their 15th straight loss. Mike Conley added 20 points and Rudy Gobert had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks as the Jazz got back on track after dropping their final two games of the first half.

READ: Quin Snyder, Rudy Gobert and Team LeBron run away with All-Star Game, 170-150

Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson each scored 15 but the Jazz needed a late run to close out the Rockets.

Kevin Porter Jr. scored a season-high 27 points for Houston. He was 1 of 9 from 3-point range and 11 of 25 overall. Sterling Brown and Kenyon Martin Jr. each had 15 points.

The Rockets' slump is their longest since losing 15 straight in 2001. Houston's last win came Feb. 4 against Memphis.

After losing three of four games before the All-Star break, the Jazz were looking to recapture the form that won them 22 of 24 games and vaulted them to the top of the NBA standings.

The short-handed Rockets had just nine healthy players -- most of whom had been at the end of the bench or out of the league this year -- but the Jazz still looked disjointed and rusty at times.

After falling behind by 23 in the third quarter, the Rockets cut the lead to 94-90 early in the fourth on Jae'Sean Tate's 3-pointer and David Nwaba's layup.

During the 16-2 run, the ragtag Rockets forced three Jazz misses in a row and then a trio of turnovers to make their comeback.

After watching the Rockets' unlikely rally from the bench, Mitchell returned to the court with a flourish, assisting on 3-pointers by Clarkson and Royce O'Neale to build the lead back to double digits but then got hit in the chest on his next drive, fell to the court and slowly made his way to the bench during the ensuing timeout. He continued playing but only scored one point the rest of the way.

The Jazz finished the game on a 12-3 surge, highlighted by Conley's timely playmaking and Gobert's defense. Meanwhile, the weary Rockets missed 10 of the final 11 field goal attempts.

READ: Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley takes 2nd place in NBA All-Star 3-point contest

Justin Patton had a career-high 13 points for Houston.

Already down to nine players, McLemore, Tate and Brown all had at least two fouls with 3:46 left in the first quarter as the Jazz repeatedly drove to the basket. The Rockets stopped fouling but also ceased defending effectively.

By halftime, Mitchell had 18 points and the Jazz had made 19 of 21 free throws to take a 65-48 lead.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Coach Stephen Silas unsuccessfully challenged a foul where Porter bumped Mitchell on a drive with 3:12 left. . The Rockets outscored the Jazz on second-chance points, 24-9, on 19 offensive rebounds. . The Rockets went 9 for 43 on 3-point shots and just 8 for 13 from the free-throw line.

Jazz: Utah now allows 5,600 fans in the arena, up from the 3,900 capacity before the break. . Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova, who hasn't played in the NBA this season, joined the Jazz during the All-Star break but didn't play Friday. . The Jazz had 20 turnovers, including several unforced.

DEPLETED RANKS

The Rockets were without Christian Wood (ankle), John Wall (knee), Daniel House Jr. (knee), and Eric Gordon (groin). Gordon planned to undergo an MRI in Utah and early reports predicted him out for a month or more.

Less than four days after his release, rookie guard Mason Jones was back in uniform on a 10-day contract signed the day of the game.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Host the Boston Celtics on Sunday to kick off a seven-game homestand.

Jazz: Visit the Golden State Warriors on Sunday to start a run of five on the road.