Utah downs Rockets 100-89, Harden leaves game in 4th
HOUSTON (AP) — Just four games into the season the Houston Rockets already have three losses, have dealt with the suspension of Chris Paul and now must wait to see if a hamstring injury will cause James Harden to miss any time.
Donovan Mitchell scored 38 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 100-89 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night in a game Harden left with what the team called tightness in his left hamstring.
The Rockets got within five points midway through the fourth quarter but Harden headed to the locker room soon after and didn't return.
With Harden out, the Jazz regained control, scoring the next 10 points to make it 94-79 and cruise to the victory.
"Just felt tightness in my left hamstring," Harden said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Harden missed seven games last season with a Grade 2 hamstring strain and said this was not the same type of injury.
"It's nothing serious. Nothing serious," he said. "It's not close to last year. Just being cautious."
Harden scored 29 points and Carmelo Anthony had a season-high 22 for the Rockets, who were missing two starters. Paul finished up a two-game suspension for his role in a fight with the Lakers last week and James Ennis sat out with a strained right hamstring.
Eric Gordon made his second straight start in place of Paul and Michael Carter-Williams made his first start of the season with Ennis on the bench.
Coach Mike D'Antoni knows that no one is happy about how the team is playing right now, but he's confident that his group will turn things around soon.
"Bad start, we get it, but I saw some things tonight that we can get better at, work on and it's not that far off," he said. "We'll get CP back on Friday ... (and) we're going to do this and this team is going to be good. This team is going to be really good. We just got to hang in there for a little bit and go through some growing pains."
Utah got this season's series with Houston off on a good note after the Rockets beat the Jazz 4-1 in the Western Conference semifinals after winning all four regular-season meetings.
Mitchell had his best game of the young season, with seven assists and five rebounds after failing to score 20 points in Utah's first three games. He said he was "110 percent" frustrated after not playing as well as he'd liked in the last three games.
"Not so much from a scoring aspect, just because I wasn't making the plays that I need to make," he said.
The Jazz had a 15-point lead early in the fourth after scoring the first six points of the quarter. Houston got going after that, scoring the next seven points, with the first four from Clint Capela and a 3 from Anthony to make it 81-75 with about nine minutes left.
Mitchell hit a 3-pointer with less than eight minutes to go to leave the Jazz up by nine. Harden re-entered the game soon after that and made a jump shot after a steal by P.J. Tucker. Tucker grabbed another steal on the next possession and dished it to Harden, who found Capela ahead of the defense for a slam dunk that cut the lead to 84-79 and had Jazz coach Quin Snyder calling for a timeout as Harden implored the crowd to get louder.
The Jazz led by eight at halftime after holding Houston to just 15 points in the second quarter and had pushed the lead to 16 midway through the third after a 3-pointer by Joe Ingles. Utah was up 75-66 entering the fourth.
Jazz: Raul Neto missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury. ... Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 13 rebounds. ... Ingles added 11 points.
Rockets: Centers Nene (right calf tightness) and Zhou Qi (left knee sprain), and forward Marquese Chriss (left ankle sprain) did not play. ... Anthony hadn't scored more than nine points in any of the first three games.
WHAT A TEAMMATE
Paul's suspension came because of an altercation he had with Rajon Rondo after Paul said the Lakers guard spit at him. On Tuesday night Rondo did an interview with ESPN where he called Paul a "horrible teammate." Harden said he hadn't heard about Rondo's comments when asked after the game but shared his thoughts on playing with the nine-time All-Star.
"I think he's a pretty cool teammate to me," Harden said. "Pretty cool guy to be around. For real."
Jazz: Visit New Orleans on Saturday.
Rockets: Host Clippers on Friday.