SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – In what has been an emotionally draining 24 hours, the Jazz looked a little haggard, losing to a short-handed Houston Rockets team Monday night, 126-117.
Eric Gordon scored a career-high 50 points to lead, while Austin Rivers and Danuel House, Jr. each scored 21, as the Rockets, who played without James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Clint Cappella, ended Utah’s nine-game home win streak.
The Jazz had not lost at Vivint Arena since December 9th.
This was Utah’s first game since NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday afternoon. Both the Jazz and Rockets took 24 second shot clock violations to start the game in honor of Bryant’s number 24.
Gordon became the first Rockets player besides Harden to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in January 1996, according to STATS. Harden has done it 23 times since then.
Donovan Mitchell scored 36 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 30, but Utah lost for just the third time in 22 games despite shooting 51% from the field.
Gordon had his first game with more than 30 points this season. His previous career best of 41 came against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23, 2009. The veteran guard stepped up and filled the scoring void with Harden, Westbrook and Clint Capela sitting out.
Harden missed his second straight game with a bruised left thigh. Capela (bruised right heel) and Westbrook (rest) sat out after playing Sunday against Denver.
Their absence had minimal impact on Houston’s offense early.
Gordon bookended an 11-0 run with a dunk and a 3-pointer to give the Rockets an 11-4 lead early in the first quarter. Houston stayed in front throughout the period.
The Jazz went ahead with a 13-2 run to open the second. Mitchell scored three baskets to fuel the spurt, and Mike Conley drove for a layup to cap it off.
Gordon provided a spark to help Houston regain the lead. He totaled 15 points in the second quarter and helped the Rockets close the first half on a 17-6 run to take a 59-46 lead into the break. Thabo Sefolosha started and finished the run by driving for a layup.
Utah trimmed the deficit to 72-66 midway through the third on consecutive 3-pointers from Bogdanovic, but got no closer. Rivers and House answered with back-to-back baskets to stop the rally. That sparked a 15-6 spurt that gave Houston an 87-72 lead near the end of the quarter.
The Jazz next visit San Antonio on Wednesday.