Houston • Triple Bogeys: bad in golf, great in basketball.
For the second time this season, Bojan Bogdanovic hit a game-winning shot for the Utah Jazz, this time giving the Jazz a much-needed 114-113 win over the rival Houston Rockets on Sunday.
Houston’s P.J. Tucker hit a corner 3 for the Rockets to give them the lead with 1.6 seconds left, but after a timeout, Joe Ingles found Bogdanovic coming off a screen from about 30 feet away, where Bogdanovic hit a twisting three that found nothing but net, ending one of the best games of the season.
The play had three threats, but Houston guarded them all well. First was Jordan Clarkson, coming from the top to the corner. Then, Donovan Mitchell, coming around a screen, found himself covered as well. The hope was that by the time the third player — Bogdanovic — came around the arc, he’d find himself open.
‘Bogey’ was not open; in fact, he was double-covered. The shot went in anyway, because Bogdanovic is one of the best tough-shot makers in the league.
“I knew it was good, I knew it was good as soon as he caught it,” Tucker said. “He got a good lift on it. I could just tell, as soon as he shot it, I knew it was good.”
He got help, of course. If you were a scoring guard on this Sunday, you had a productive day.
Russell Westbrook had 39 points on 18-for-33 shooting, seemingly incessantly attacking the Jazz’s defense. Utah guarded him in a unique way, with Rudy Gobert starting on him at the beginning of the game. That forced the Rockets to try all sorts of unique ideas to get him free, including having James Harden come over to set screens. Harden had 28 — significantly below his season average, but still very productive. It wasn’t his usual assortment of threes and free throws, but instead layups at the rim that got Harden those points.
For the Jazz, three guards brought the scoring. Clarkson led the team with 30 points off the bench, Utah’s most reliable attacker against switching defenses. While he was in the game for the final play, Clarkson sat for most of the end of the fourth — between the 5:33 and 28-second marks — thanks to a 9-0 run that swung the game in the Jazz’s favor in the minutes he happened to sit. While he was on the sideline waiting to come in the game, he had a conversation with Jazz coach Quin Snyder:
“They had it going at that time, so I just told Coach, ‘Man, let them rock,” Clarkson said.
Mitchell found his best performance of the game late, taking advantage of Harden’s fifth foul to drive on him time and time again for a total of 24 points. Mike Conley was solid throughout, scoring 20.
As it turned out, three 20-point scorers is better than two. Hey, isn’t 3 > 2 the math the Rockets are founded on?
Not on this occasion. Both teams hit the same number of threes (15), while the Rockets led in points in the paint, 54-48. But it was a 16-2 Jazz advantage in second-chance opportunities that really allowed them to succeed against the Rockets’ no-center lineups.
The conflicting styles kept the game relatively close throughout — the biggest lead of the game for either team was the Rockets’ second-quarter advantage of 11 points. The final seconds came down to who had the last shot: Robert Covington’s three with 28 seconds left could have been the game-winner, as could Mitchell’s free throws with 15 seconds left, as could Tucker’s shot with 1.6 left.
But Bogdanovic had the ball last. He caught the ball, turned, fired — and as the ball went through the net, he yelled a number of unprintable swears in Croatian.
“You cannot translate that in English,” Bogdanovic insisted.
We may not know what Bogdanovic said, but what it meant was a W.