SALT LAKE CITY – – The Utah Jazz are starting to roll again and the return of Rudy Gobert makes them even better.

Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points. Bojan Bogdanovic added 22 and Gobert had 14 points in Utah’s 135-101 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

“I was anxious. … I was looking forward to getting back on the pitch and being part of what our team is doing now,” said Gobert, who missed nine games with a sprained left calf. Gobert was ejected with his second technical foul with 6:33 to go, the Jazz was a plus-19 in the 22 minutes he was on the court.

“It’s great, just his presence. We all know how good he is, how important he is for this team both offensively and defensively. Offensively, rolling to the basket, grabbing those offensive boards and those backhands…and his defense, we all know what he does,” Bojan Bogdanovic said of Gobert, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Jordan Clarkson scored 16 points and Hassan Whiteside contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds in Utah’s third wire-to-wire victory of the season. Whiteside grabbed 49 rebounds in the last three games, all in a reserve role.

Eric Gordon, Jae’Sean Tate and Kevin Porter, Jr. each scored 14 goals for the Rockets, who have dropped five in a row.

“A good team like that will punish you. We just didn’t play our game. We were just there,” Gordon said.

The Jazz went a perfect 6-0 at home, giving them a three-game lead over Dallas for the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Three of the games were by margins of 23 or more.

“Our competitiveness, our relentlessness, even when we were 25 years ahead … helps us establish winning habits,” Mitchell said.

With Gobert’s return, the Jazz had their regular starting lineup for the first time in 13 games. This group is 23-8 this season.

The Jazz defense fell from the top five in tatters early on without the tall Frenchman, but the Jazz learned to play without him and held the teams in check during the homestand.

“Our energy is different. I feel like something happened in our team. In this crisis that we had… it really triggered something. I feel like we’re a team trying to accomplish something,” Gobert said.

The Rockets shot well for most of the game, but saw a lot of finger-pointing and talking after defensive breakdowns and missed passes. The Rockets hold the worst record in the Western Conference and since beating the Jazz 10 games ago, but have since gone 1-9.

Houston coach Stephen Silas pinned him on defense.

“They were coming down on their records. They were offensive rebounders. They had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Silas said. “Once they get in the paint, it’s the 3-point shooter kicks.”

Utah used a 16-0 run between the first and second quarters to amass a comfortable margin and led up to 31 in the first half. Utah’s 78 points were a season high for a first half.

Mitchell scored his 30 points on just 15 field goal attempts, with five 3-pointers and 7 of 8 from the line.


Mike Conley had his worst shooting performance of the season on Monday, missing all six of his 3-point attempts and scoring just two points. But Jazz coach Quin Snyder saw Conley make winning plays.

“It’s really important for our whole team to know that you have the ability to impact the game, even if you don’t score,” Snyder said. “When your shot doesn’t fall what can you do to help your team and Mike’s play tonight showed that.”

Conley had 10 assists and four steals, and the Jazz offense buzzed when he was on the court.


“We just need to be more connected, defensive side and attacking side as well. We have to do it together. That’s what Phoenix and all good teams do – even Utah tonight – moving the ball, defensively very connected. I think when we get on the same page and sacrifice for each other, I think we’ll move on to the next step. – Dennis Schroder in his first game with the Rockets after being traded from the Boston Celtics.


Rockets: Houston shot 50 percent or better from 2 and 3 points in the first half and was still trailing 25 points at the break. … Porter had eight assists. … The Rockets outscored the Jazz 19-13 on quick break points.

Jazz: Rudy Gay missed his fourth game with right knee pain. … In the first half, Conley and Mitchell combined for 13 assists, which is the number of assists for all the Rockets. … Whiteside and Bogdanovic also committed technical fouls.


Rockets: Visit Phoenix on Wednesday.

Jazz: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

—— More AP NBA: and–Sports