The Rockets needed a serious boost against the Jazz on Monday night, limping into Utah losing six of their last nine games. Russell Westbrook and James Harden sat out the contest, and Houston entered Vivint Smart Home Arena as serious underdogs against a team that had won 14 of its last 15. Eric Gordon didn't mind the challenge.
Houston's sixth man shined on Monday, dropping in a career-high 50 points in the Rockets 126-117 victory. Gordon came up large with an undermanned squad, and he briefly reflected on the accomplishment before leaving the floor.
"It really feels great, man. All the stuff I've been through over the years," Gordon said on NBA TV's broadcast. "All the injuries. For me to get a chance to get 50 [points], it definitely means a lot. And I'm headed in the right direction."
Gordon needed just 22 shots to reach 50 points on Monday, pulling off a pretty impressive Harden impersonation in the process. Gordon banged home six threes and attempted 20 free throws, baiting the Jazz into switch after switch. Joe Ingles was consistently attacked. Even Rudy Gobert struggled to contain Gordon in space.
Gordon wasn't interested in his personal accomplishment upon entering the locker room. He demurred to his teammates when speaking with the media, deflecting praise after the best game of his career.
“I had it going, but how we played tonight is how we need to play,” Gordon said postgame. “We got after it defensively. We just played our game. When you play within the flow of the game, you’re going to get a lot of good shots."
Gordon received plenty of support from Houston's collection of role players in Monday's road win. Austin Rivers and Danuel House each scored 21 points. Thabo Sefolosha added nine, including a pair of highlight moves in the second quarter. Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni was thrilled with the his team's effort postgame.
"I coached a lot of teams, in a lot of games, and that was one of the most satisfying,” D’Antoni said. “I thought our guys couldn’t have played harder. Obviously, you make mistakes in a game. But [we got] big play after big play after big play."
Monday was a crucial win for the Rockets as they avoided dropping both legs of their back-to-back after a loss at Denver. Westbrook will return to the lineup on Wednesday (Harden is questionable) as Houston finishes its road trip in Portland. The lights will be back on at the Toyota Center on Friday as Houston hosts Dallas.
Tip-off from the Moda Center in Portland on Wednesday is slated for 9 p.m. CT. The Rockets enter the matchup sixth in the Western Conference at 29–17.