The Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets are locked in a tight battle for playoff seeding in the middle of the Western Conference, and their matchup on Sunday evening had all the intensity of a postseason contest. It had all the drama, too, as Bojan Bogdanovic and the Jazz stole a 114-113 victory in one of the wildest games of the season.
Neither team led by more than seven points in the fourth quarter, and there were four lead changes in the final 30 seconds alone. Let's fast forward all the way to that point to see break things down.
28 seconds left: Robert Covington puts Rockets in front, 110-109
Down by two points with less than a minute to play, the Rockets desperately needed a stop. They got one when Donovan Mitchell missed a 3-pointer. Grabbing the rebound, James Harden raced the ball up the floor, got into the paint and kicked the ball out to Robert Covington. The new arrival in Houston put his skills on display by drilling the 3 to give the Rockets a 110-109 lead.
Robert Covington from 3-point land for the lead!@utahjazz 109@HoustonRockets 110— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2020
28.0 left on @NBATV pic.twitter.com/Gr06LLjrsh
15.6 seconds left: Mitchell gets to the line to give the Jazz a 111-110 advantage
On the next possession, the Jazz needed a response, and gave the ball to their main man. Mitchell was able to get past Covington in the lane and drew a foul on PJ Tucker. Stepping up to the line, he calmly made both free throws to put the Jazz back in front.
1.6 seconds left: Tucker's corner 3 puts the Rockets up, 113-111
Trailing once again, the Rockets moved the ball around frantically as they looked for a potential game winner. Harden drove inside and kicked it out to Danuel House, who thought about driving himself before swinging the ball to Russell Westbrook. The point guard put his head down and got into the paint, but was quickly surrounded by multiple Jazz defenders. Somehow, he was able to fling the ball out to Tucker in the corner, and the veteran kept his cool and drilled the 3.
Donovan Mitchell makes both at the line... and PJ Tucker buries the GO-AHEAD TRIPLE with 1.6 left!@utahjazz 111@HoustonRockets 113— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2020
Jazz ball on @NBATV pic.twitter.com/3bdnb9KEsk
0.0 seconds left: Bogdanovic's buzzer beater gives Jazz a 114-113 win
Following Tucker's shot, the Jazz took a timeout to advance the ball up the floor, and head coach Quin Snyder drew up a play. First, Rudy Gobert set a screen for Mitchell, who careened around his center and towards the ball. But instead of taking the pass, he turned his cut into a (moving) screen on Harden, who was guarding Gobert.
Meanwhile, Bogdanovic was following Mitchell's same path up towards the top of the key, and popped open well behind the line. Taking the pass from Joe Ingles, he turned and fired a desperation 3 at the buzzer that caught nothing but net. Tucker actually did a great job recovering to contest the shot, and Harden arrived to help as well, but it didn't matter.
BOJAN BOGDANOVIC drills the #TissotBuzzerBeater to win it for the @utahjazz! #ThisIsYourTime pic.twitter.com/STpWG1yTYr— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2020
Bogdanovic actually had his lowest-scoring game of the season, finishing with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting, but he was ready when it mattered most to help the Jazz secure a crucial win, and their second late one in a row. Just a few nights ago, on Friday, they stole a win from the Portland Trail Blazers after the referees missed a goaltending call on Damian Lillard's last-second layup.
Thanks to these two close ones going their way, the Jazz are up to 34-18 on the season, which has them alone in fourth place in the West, and 1.5 games up on the Rockets for home-court advantage. If they had lost both of them instead, they'd be in fifth place, and the Rockets would be in fourth. So while it's still early February, these games are already looming large in the playoff race.