Heading to Houston, Jazz look to get back on track

Heading to Houston, Jazz look to get back on track

For the first month of the season, the Utah Jazz were the surprise of the NBA, and even an eight-game losing streak in 10 games did little to dampen the spark with which they played.

But now Utah is in the midst of a five-game losing streak, with a cumulative margin of defeat of just 15 points. The Jazz suffered their second one-possession loss to the Sacramento Kings in five days on Tuesday, falling 117-115 when De’Aaron Fox converted a layup inside the final second.

The Jazz open a three-game road trip on Thursday against the Houston Rockets, looking to regain the positivity that characterized the opening weeks of their season.

“The difference between winning and losing in this league is very, very small, as we’re seeing it,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said Tuesday after Utah forward Lauri Markkanen’s game-tying jumper at the buzzer was denied on a review of repetition.

“It hurts right now and it has to — losing is bad. If losing doesn’t hurt, you shouldn’t be here. I expect our team, our coaching staff to hurt.”

Before Utah surrendered a late game-winning 3-pointer to Kings guard Kevin Huerter to end a three-game road trip on Dec. 30, the Jazz lost 126-122 at San Antonio and 112-107 at Golden States. Miami followed with a 3-pointer by Tyler Herro to clinch a 126-123 victory over Utah between Huerter and Fox’s game-winners.

A string of such disappointing losses could further shock any team, especially one struggling to get back on track after opening the season with such promise. But credit to the Jazz for acknowledging that close calls are an indicator of progress.

“We know we’re close, so that’s a good thing,” Markkanen said. “Just fix a few things and we’re there. Sure, it hurts to lose, especially like this. But I think we just have to look in the mirror and use these moments to learn how to win.

“They’ll be back in a moment.”

Like the Jazz, the Rockets are also falling, but in a different way.

Houston has dropped 10 of 11 games by an average margin of defeat of 12.1 points. In a 119-108 road loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, the Rockets went wire-to-wire and fell into a 31-point hole in the second quarter after giving up 45 points in the first period.

The Rockets, behind their reserves, closed to within seven points late, but it was a futile rally.

“We have to make that fight from the beginning of the game,” said Rockets coach Stephen Silas, who was fouled after two technical fouls in the first quarter.

“As I keep saying, the best thing about the NBA is that we have an opportunity (Thursday) to correct our mistakes, but it has to be right from the start. We can’t start games like this, just we can’t. Regardless of our age and all this other stuff, like, no, we can’t.”

— Field level media

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