HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The Houston Rockets may have to worry about the Utah Jazz down the stretch as a threat to their third spot in the Western Conference after their 115-108 loss Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
The Jazz have won the season series two games to one and would hold the tiebreaker if the teams finish with the same record. The Rockets are now 44-21 with two straight losses and Utah is three games back at 41-24 with three straight victories.
The Rockets had a brief 17-15 lead with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter, but the Jazz regained the lead for good on a Gordon Hayward three with 3:55 left in the period. The Jazz led by as many as 13 and despite a rally in the fourth quarter, Houston never could pull any closer than three points in the second half.
Mike D’Antoni cited the emotional loss to the Spurs from Monday had some carry over into Wednesday.
“I just don’t want to take anything away from (the Jazz),” D’Antoni said. ” They played well they eat us and again we know what we have to do. We’re still in third place and you know the sun will come up tomorrow and we got to go to Chicago and win.”
Patrick Beverley scored just three points and finished just 1-of-7 from the field and felt their was a lack of energy in the opening half.
“If we would have come out with the same effort that we did in the second half and come out like that in the first half, I feel like we would’ve won,” Beverley said. “They defended and that made it tough on us, but with that being said we got to the rim and we got open threes. We just didn’t make them.”
The Rockets struggled from beyond the arc, connecting just eight times on 32 attempts. The Rockets were without one of their top sharpshooters in Ryan Anderson who was out with a back injury.
“Yes, we shoot threes,” Rockets guard James Harden said when asked if the team missed Anderson. “Any time we’re missing guys it doesn’t matter if it’s Ryan or any of our guys, we have to kind of re-adjust. We still had opportunities without Ryan and we just didn’t capitalize.
The Rockets seemed to be comfortable in the third spot in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio, but with the Jazz inching closer and streaking, they have an opportunity, to catch Houston.
“We like being third just because that means we’re playing well, but if not it’s fourth, if it’s not it’s fifth,” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to finish up as well as we can try to get our stuff together and get in the playoffs healthy and playing well.
The Rockets face the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Friday. If Anderson is unable to play in the game he will not travel with the team.