JAZZ DEFEAT ROCKETS

Rockets fall short despite VanVleet's explosive performance

Rockets fall short despite VanVleet's explosive performance
Fred VanVleet dropped 42 points in the loss. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Luka Samanic scored a season-high 22 points to help the Utah Jazz snap a 13-game losing streak with a 124-121 victory over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Keyonte George chipped in 20 points for the Jazz, who finished 21-20 at home this season. Brice Sensabaugh added 17 points and Talen Horton-Tucker had 16. Kenneth Lofton Jr. scored a season-high 14 points and added nine rebounds.

Houston made 21 3-pointers and outscored Utah in second-chance points and fast-break points. The Jazz persevered and found a way to get in the win column for the first time since mid-March and end the third-longest losing streak in franchise history.

“That desperation that we played with throughout most of the game, but in particular in the second half, is who we’re aiming to be always,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said.

Fred VanVleet knocked down nine 3-pointers and scored a season-high 42 points for the Rockets, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. VanVleet was 9 for 13 from 3-point range while also tallying seven assists and seven rebounds. But he also went just 3 of 17 from inside the arc.

Cam Whitmore added 18 points while also making four 3s. Amen Thompson chipped in 15 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.

“We should be concerned, should be disappointed, should be (angry) at ourselves because it was a wasted opportunity,” VanVleet said.

Down three at halftime, the Jazz opened the third quarter with four unanswered baskets. VanVleet and Aaron Holiday combined for five 3-pointers to erase the deficit. Holiday’s back-to-back 3s made it 89-84 for Houston.

Utah countered with a 14-3 run late in the third and took a 98-92 lead on Sensabaugh’s second-chance corner 3.

VanVleet tied it on a pair of free throws with 2:30 left but the Jazz pulled away for good. Back-to-back layups from Darius Beazley and George keyed a 6-0 run that put Utah up 124-118 with 54 seconds remaining.

“We played extremely hard,” George said. “Our communication was at an all-time high. We did everything the right way and we got the result we wanted.”

VanVleet and Jeff Green each made back-to-back 3-pointers to key a 14-4 run that gave the Rockets a 38-28 lead going into the second quarter.

Houston shot 62% from the perimeter during the first quarter. VanVleet led the way, knocking down six of those 3s and scoring 20 points. His final outside basket beat the first-quarter buzzer to give the Rockets their first double-digit lead.

Utah erased the deficit in the second quarter behind a 13-0 run. Houston went scoreless for three minutes during that stretch. Horton-Tucker capped Utah’s run with a pair of free throws that put the Jazz up 51-49.

“Habits are hard to break and mentalities are hard to change and that’s why we are where we are record-wise and not achieving our goals,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “You’d be better off saying you don’t want to play and get people out there that really want to play.”

UP NEXT

Rockets: Visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

Jazz: Visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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