Not fouling up 3 and a lack of focus: Jazz learn lessons in win over Rockets


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HOUSTON — The plan was to foul.

The Utah Jazz were up by 3 points with 8.3 seconds remaining. Up to that point, the game hadn't gone perfect against the lowly Houston Rockets, but the Jazz were in a position to at least win the game.

All Utah needed to do was foul and they'd win the game — or at least give the team a high probability of winning.

Eight seconds later, though, Christian Wood tied the game on a high-arcing 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

The Jazz ended up beating Houston 132-127, overcoming a 4-point overtime deficit in the process, but the final possession of regulation was a major focus for the team after the game.

"The plan was to foul," said Rudy Gobert, who had 27 points and 17 rebounds. "And we did and they didn't call it."

Gobert's half right. The plan was to foul — as he, Jazz coach Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley all confirmed — but the Jazz didn't actually get the foul.

Danuel House Jr. had multiple opportunities to slap down, bump or hit both Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. but never applied enough contact to draw the whistle. In fact, he played pretty good defense and locked down Porter and forced him into a pass.

There was just one problem: Gobert, who believed that a foul was going to come, was out of position.

The Utah center had even chased Porter around, and even tried to swipe at him (there wasn't much contact on that one, either). The breakdown led to Porter passing to Wood, who shot a relatively open 3-pointer to tie the game.

Fortunately for the Jazz, the "breakdown," as Snyder called it, didn't cost them the game.

After his team had blown an 18-point lead, looked unfocused — to say the least — for the majority of the contest, and had a major mistake in the final possession of regulation, you may have expected Snyder to be a little displeased following the contest.

If he was, he didn't show it during his postgame press conference; in fact, he even wore a soft smile when talking about the win.

"To be down for overtime and come back and win the game, that's not lost on me and it shouldn't be lost on anyone," Snyder said.

He chose to focus at the very end of the contest — at least for now — and not necessarily what led up to it.

There was plenty of good at the end: Mitchell went on a personal 6-0 run in overtime to pull the Jazz back into the lead, and Conley's late shooting lifted the Jazz to victory. But there was a reason it wouldn't have been a major surprise if Snyder was a bit upset.

A four-minute span in the second quarter showed what a fully engaged Utah Jazz team could do against the Rockets; that's when the Jazz went on a 21-3 run and looked to be well on their way to burying the young Houston team.

How about the rest of the game? Well, there was a reason the game went to overtime. It turns out an unfocused Jazz team can still beat the lowly Rockets, but only just barely. Utah coughed up an 18-point lead, and really most of it was just poor effort.

The lack of defensive stops in the fourth quarter came as the result of half-hearted rotations and unfocused defense at the point of attack. And that was something that plagued the team all night.

Outside of Mitchell, who was electric with 37 points and 10 assists, the Jazz looked like they were moving half speed for most of the game.

The worst was at the end.

With 30 seconds left in regulation, Porter Jr. made a simple drive into the paint and Royce O'Neale kind of back pedaled. It looked as if O'Neale was playing to avoid a foul and not to actually stop anyone. Even on Wood's game-tying 3-pointer, Gobert was caught too deep and was not able to contest (yes, the Jazz should have fouled; the team, though, shouldn't have stopped playing when it didn't happen).

The Jazz, though, were saved by some opportune shooting.

Conley, who struggled with his shot for much of the night, hit three massive 3-pointers late to help the Jazz survive in Houston.

Conley's 3-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation broke a tie (Wood would later answer that shot seconds later), and then he hit two late 3-pointers in overtime to give the Jazz enough breathing room to get the expected, but surprisingly hard-fought, win.

"I think the way we played at the end, I don't think we deserved to win," Gobert said. "It was good we got a chance to redeem ourselves in overtime."

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