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Mar 22, 2024 8:10 pm

Gritty Rockets look to stay hot against fading Jazz

dillon brooks

Midway through the third quarter on Thursday, after Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan knocked Rockets guard Jalen Green to the ground with a hard foul near midcourt, what happened next felt inevitable.

Dillon Brooks confronted DeRozan immediately after the incident, and the tone was set. The Rockets, who extended their winning streak to seven games with their 127-117 victory over the Bulls, haven’t backed down when challenged in the second half of the season and are set to host the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

“It’s not a bad thing to have these type of chippy games where we had a big lead, they came back, and the physicality we had to increase it to match theirs and it went back and forth a bit,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said.

“I don’t mind that part of it at all. It’s good that guys are battling and getting competitive. We’re all playing for something. They’re not backing down. A guy takes a hit, teammates got to stand up for each other. You’ve seen about three or four of those now and it’s a good thing in my opinion.”

Brooks, who was ejected for his part in the fracas, cut short one of his better offensive games in recent memory to support Green. Brooks scored 23 points in 25 minutes, making 10 of 13 shots for his highest scoring output since also finishing with 23 points in a win over the New York Knicks on Feb. 12. Without Brooks, the Rockets (34-35) finished the job with a series of timely plays on both ends.

Houston has won nine of 10 games to fuel its pursuit of a playoff bid.

Utah (29-41) has lost 10 of its past 12 games to fall out of the chase for a play-in spot in the Western Conference. With an eye to the future, the Jazz have started rookie Taylor Hendricks for 11 consecutive games, and he has responded by averaging 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds during that span.

“He’s said more in the last five days than I’ve heard in the first five months,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said of Hendricks, who played in only 17 games before joining the starting lineup on Feb. 22. “He competes on every play. I give Taylor a lot of credit. We’re giving him a lot of tough assignments. He’s getting thrown right into the fire and he does it without blinking.

“He continues to take coaching very well. He’s trying to learn. His personality is starting to open up around everybody, which I think is a good thing. Feeling more comfortable hopefully will ease some of the general anxiousness that comes with being a young player and helps free yourself up, and I’m definitely seeing that with Taylor.”

–Field Level Media

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