SALT LAKE CITY -- If you thought it was bad against Portland, it got even worse in Utah on Thursday night.
The Houston Rockets were beaten up badly by the Jazz, 109-91,- for their second loss in as many days.
Sure it was the second game of a back-to-back, but the Jazz outrebounded the Rockets 57-37 and Utah center Rudy Gobert snagged a career-high 22 rebounds. Gobert was so good Thursday he also had more offensive rebounds (12) than the entire Rockets team (8).
"It wouldn't have mattered what we did offensively, we didn't move the ball very well," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "They blocked 10 shots, they just dominated the paint, so it didn't matter what we did -- we couldn't make a jump shot for a while there. That's all we had because they dominated the paint and our bigs didn't move very well to get open when Gobert was patrolling the paint, and they beat the hell out of us. There's nothing else you can say. They played well and they dominated the glass and we had nothing for them, and they just beat the hell out of us."
The Rockets' four-game, nine-day road trip -- the longest of the season -- comes to an end Sunday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Over the next two days, McHale has to find something to get a spark out of his team.
In Portland, the Rockets were getting outplayed in the second half until a late fourth-quarter surge made the game close. Houston still lost.
McHale was hoping the momentum would carry over into the Jazz game. It clearly didn't.
Utah jumped out to a 7-0 lead and McHale didn't have the personnel to stop Gobert, who just manhandled Houston's frontcourt. McHale used Joey Dorsey, a physical power forward, and it didn't work. Dorsey had as many fouls as rebounds (four) in 16 minutes.
James Harden, the NBA's second-leading scorer, looks tired. He's missed his past 10 3-point shots on this road trip, and he finished Thursday night with just 15 points after scoring 18 the night before against Portland. Harden was 1-for-7 from the field in the second half and his one made field goal didn't come until there was 7:38 remaining in the game.
When McHale was asked whether Harden is tired, he said, "You have to ask James."
Asked about what Utah did against Harden, McHale answered, "They whipped our ass."
That's it? "Yeah, pretty much."
McHale's patience was wearing thin with reporters, and who can blame him? This Rockets team will make the postseason, no doubt about that, but playoff positioning is important, and the Clippers are just a game behind them for the fourth seed in the West.
"It's always tough on a back-to-back," said forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 25 points off the bench. "Those young guys, they've been playing well. Coach [Quin] Snyder has them playing really hard. You have to come out and play as hard as they play."
The Rockets didn't.
Maybe it's the back-to-back, and had the Rockets beaten the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, then maybe you give them a pass for losing to the Jazz.
"No, it was about the small things," Harden said. "Rudy Gobert had [14 points] and 18 [rebounds] in the first half, and there's no way you can beat a team -- especially on the road -- with [this] type of effort."