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Mike D’Antoni calls Rockets’ win over Jazz ‘one of the most satisfying’ games of his career

Rockets, Mike D'Antoni

The Houston Rockets were fazed with a difficult proposition, scheduled to play back-to-back games in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s sudden death on Sunday morning. Mike D’Antoni’s squad had to lace them up only minutes after Bryant, 41, was confirmed dead at the scene, with no time to reschedule or postpone their game against the Nuggets.

The Rockets lost 117-110, soon processing everything that had gone on in the news cycle. Russell Westbrook, who played on Sunday and poured in 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists to go along with a whopping 10 turnovers, was bound to sit the next day while James Harden continued to miss time with a thigh injury.

Eric Gordon would then take over as the main offensive force on Monday against a Utah Jazz team vying to move up in the West, but the 6-foot-3 guard had other plans.

The veteran Rockets sharpshooter dropped a career-high 50 points as his teammates celebrated, a rousing success emanating from the lowest point of misery — something D’Antoni considers one of the best wins of his coaching career.

“It was definitely uplifting,” said D’Antoni after the 126-117 road win over the Jazz, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I’ve coached a lot of teams in a lot of games, and that was one of the most satisfying. I thought our guys couldn’t have played harder. Obviously, you make mistakes in a game, but big play after big play after big play. They came back a couple of times, but we just kept going back at them. Eric Gordon was out of his mind tonight. That’s a great performance.”

Gordon stepped up in a major way without Westbrook, Harden, or Clint Capela in the lineup, playing second fiddle to no one and impacting the game at both ends for the shorthanded Rockets.

Call it channeling the “Mamba Mentality” or what have you, but “Splash Gordon” made the most of a dire situation to bring the Rockets an uplifting result in the wake of a true tragedy.

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