McHale: 'They played better than we did'
Since inserting Terrence Jones into the starting lineup, the Rockets had been one of the fastest starting teams in the NBA. Unfortunately with Chandler Parsons out of the lineup for the first time this season, the Rockets got off to a terrible start and really never recovered, losing 109-103 to the Utah Jazz.
It was just Utah's fourth win of the season as they entered the game with the league's worst record at 3-15.
Parsons missed the game with lingering issues stemming from back spasms that had him crumbled in a heap on the court in the final moments of their Rockets win on Saturday night against the Spurs. Jeremy Lin also continues to miss time with a right knee sprain.
That pushed Francisco Garcia into the starting lineup and things started poorly with Utah's Gordon Hayward taking advantage of Parson's absence. He scored 17 points in the first quarter leading the Jazz to 36 points in the period.
Opponents were averaging just 22.3 points per game in the first quarter against Houston over the last ten games since the switch to Jones, while the Rockets have averaged 31 first quarter points. The Rockets trailed 36-23 after the opening period and would grab the lead for just two brief moments late in the second quarter and not at all in the second half.
"We had a bad start. We came out had a bad energy level," Kevin McHale said. "We just werent ready to play.
"They got a big lead and we kind of fought back a few times and tried to take it from them," McHale said. "But they gained a lot of confidence and they made some big shots and we could never get our hands back on the game."
There's little doubt the Jazz gained confidence from that strong first quarter. They made 15-of-21 shots for 71.4 percent and it clearly carried over throughout the game for the good, young Jazz backcourt.
In addition to Hayward's excellent first quarter, rookie point guard Trey Burke added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. They would both post career highs with 29 and 21 points, respectively.
When asked about the difficulty of trying to comeback in this game without Parson and Lin, McHale shot down that notion.
"We had plenty of guys to win this game, it had nothing to do with who wasnt there," he said. "It's the guys who were here, how they played."
He might have been referring to the work done on the defensive glass for the Rockets. Houston allowed only three offensive rebounds over the first three quarters, leading to just three second chance points. The Rockets had 15 second chance points in the first three quarters.
However, in the fourth quarter, the tables were completely turned on Houston. The Jazz grabbed five offensive rebounds, leading to five additional second chance points. Houston didn't have any rebounds on their seven misses in the final 12 minutes.
McHale said the Rockets didn't take the Jazz lightly, but they were simply outplayed.
"We didn't play well, they played better than we did," McHale said.