Jazz want to pick up the pace, unleash bottled up offense vs. Rockets Saturday in Houston

Jazz want to pick up the pace, unleash bottled up offense vs. Rockets Saturday in Houston

HOUSTON — Following a successful five-game road trip during which they won four games and averaged 102 points per game, the Utah Jazz came home, struggled offensively and lost a pair of games to Memphis and Chicago to drop to 7-6 on the season.

Now it’s back on the road again as the Jazz try to rediscover their offense against one of the league’s top offensive teams, the Houston Rockets, who are off to a solid start (7-5) under new coach Mike D’Antoni. The Jazz and Rockets tip off at 3 p.m. MT Saturday at the Toyota Center.

The Jazz are coming off their worst offensive performance of the year against the Bulls, shooting just 38.5 percent from the field and a dismal 20 percent (5 of 25) from 3-point range. Their 77 points were the lowest since scoring 69 in a loss to San Antonio midway through the 2014-15 season.

“We had some open shots, but we didn’t make them,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “The ball wasn’t moving as well as we’d like to see it move. Sometimes when you’re missing shots, you let it impact everything and you get stagnant.”

Jazz players agreed with their coach.

“I think we’re doing well in moving the ball and finding open shots, it just comes down to hitting that shot we get,” said Dante Exum, who was one of the better players Thursday with 14 points. “I think the group is still connected and we’re just going to get better every game. We’ll just continue to work on the shots and they’ll fall.”

Gordon Hayward, who had played terrific in his first five games back from his finger injury, averaging 24 points on the Eastern road trip, struggled for the second straight game Thursday. After going 4 of 14 overall and 1 of 7 from 3-point range Monday night against Memphis, Hayward was even worse Thursday, making just 3 of 15 shots and missing all three 3-pointers and finishing with just eight points.

“We have to hit shots,” Hayward said. “We got some decent looks tonight, just didn’t knock them down. It was another tough shooting night for us, as well as for me individually. You knock down some shots and it opens everything up. You start missing those shots and it snowballs on you. It was just a bad night for us.”

Rodney Hood believes his team needs to pick up the pace a bit.

“We defended, but tonight we got stagnant and just didn’t push the pace like we normally do,” he said. “We have to find the energy offensively. It’s not about making shots, it’s about pushing the pace and you’ll find easier shots that way.”

What would really help the Jazz would be to get healthy. Starters Derrick Favors and George Hill both missed Thursday’s game and there’s no indication when either will return to the lineup. Hayward acknowledged he’s still bothered by his injured finger, while Hood said he wasn’t completely over the illness that kept him from playing Monday and that he had been “lying around for four days.”

Even though his team has been in an offensive funk the last couple of games, Snyder isn’t panicking yet.

“I’m not despondent,” he said. “It’s an 82-game season. I don’t think we have to examine everything and start over. We didn’t play well. We just have to play better and there’s some things we absolutely have to do better.”

GAME NOTES: Houston’s James Harden is having his best season ever so far averaging 28.5 points and 12.8 assists per game. He’s already had three triple-doubles, including one Wednesday night against Portland . . . Other Rockets starters are Eric Gordon (16.3 ppg), Ryan Anderson (13.0 ppg), Trevor Ariza (12.5 ppg) and Clint Capela (10.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) . . . The Rockets will come to Utah on Nov. 29.

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Published at Sat, 19 Nov 2016 03:26:00 +0000