Breaking down the loss

How the Rockets lost their chance at the sweep

Tim Warren/Getty Images

Monday night the Houston Rockets took on the Utah Jazz with every intention of completing the sweep against their first round opponent. The Jazz had other plans, however, and despite a third quarter run by the Rockets to retake the lead, it was the Jazz who would ultimately battle back and take game four. Utah's hopes remain alive in the 2019 playoffs, yet in spite of their victory they still trail Houston three games to one.

Out muscled

The Rockets came out flat from the get go and that tempo seemed to carry with them throughout the match up. They were out-assisted 14-24, out-rebounded 48-62 (16 of which were offensive), and brutalized in points in the paint, 22-52. It was a lackluster effort, and yet the Rockets remained competitive until the final seconds.

Donovan Mitchell Explodes

Despite poor play all around the Rockets were still hanging around late into the fourth. Their chances of a come from behind victory were quickly dashed when 2nd year guard Donovan Mitchell turned on the jets. Mitchell fired 6-12 for 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter alone, including two back to back three-pointers to put the game away late. Mitchell's outburst was perfectly timed and integral in staving off Houston's comeback.

No backup

James Harden shook off his unusual game three performance with a solid 30 point outing, matched closely by 23 points from Chris Paul. Aside from them, however, Houston received little assistance from their supporting cast. The Rockets bench fired a collective 2-16 and accounted for 5 points. The Jazz bench in contrast went 9-22 for 28 points. Harden and Paul can do whatever they want on the court, but if this is the support they can expect moving forward, Houston won't last too much longer this postseason. It's highly unlikely the bench remains that ineffective moving forward, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Rockets player of the game

Chris Paul: 23 points, 7 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 blocks

Jazz player of the game

Donovan Mitchell: 31 points, 4 assists, 7 rebounds

Next up

The Rockets return to Houston for game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday at 7:00 pm, central.

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Paying a kicker 17 million dollars? Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien engineered questionable moves during the off-season that already have come back to bite the Texans in the butt. Fans have yet to see the Texans on the right track, at least on television for now. Here are the top three, or bottom three, contracts that have Houston raising eyebrows, shrugging shoulders, and shaking heads.

Randall Cobb: 3 years, $27 million

The 30-year-old wide receiver has been quiet so far this 0-2 season with seven catches for 82 yards. New offensive coordinator Tim Kelly is favoring "12 and 21" schemes which render Cobb the third option behind Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. This could change now with Fuller nursing a hamstring injury sustained against the Ravens. To be fair, with no preseason games or extended practice, Cobb has not had time to build chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson. So let's mark him, "bad contract," but jury still deliberating.

David Johnson: 3 years, $39 million

Johnson has carried the ball 22 times for 111 yards. Normally, these would be acceptable, even commendable stats. However, Johnson carries the burden of being involved in the trade that sent DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. BTW, Hopkins in tearing it up in Arizona with 22 receptions for 219 yards. Also, more evidence condemning Johnson's contract, the Texans could have made a run at Leonard Fournette (17 carries for 108 yards) or Adrian Peterson (21 carries for 134 yards), both chewing up more turf for less money.

Whitney Mercilus: 4 years, $54 million

Here's another 30-year-old who was being paid big and producing little. He was MIA against the Ravens with no tackles and no sacks, despite being on the field for 70 percent of the Ravens snaps. Mercilus was able to squeeze the Texans for huge money last year when he picked up the workload of injured J.J. Watt.


Honorable Mention

Ka'imi Fairbairn: 4 years, $17,650,000

Fairbairn is the third highest-paid kicker in the NFL. Fairbairn had a rough start against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, missing an extra point and a deep 51-yard field goal attempt. Meanwhile, up in Dallas, Greg 'The Leg' Zuerlein is being paid half of what Fairbairn makes, but knocking them down from the logo, including a last-second, game-winning field goal to beat the Falcons. Former Texans kicker Randy Bullock is enjoying greater success in Cincinnati for considerably fewer dollars, too. Fun fact: Fairbairn is paid more than most Texans secondary defenders.


But really, the worst, and most regrettable Texans contract of all might be Bill O'Brien's deal- 4 years, $20 million.

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