HOUSTON, Feb. 11 (Ticker) --
Thanks to Matt Harpring
, the Utah Jazz
continued their mastery of the Houston Rockets.
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Harpring hit a game-tying 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second
left in regulation and added two baskets in overtime to lead the
Jazz to a 103-101 victory over the Rockets in the opener of a
The Jazz have won 19 of the last 21 meetings from their Midwest
Division rivals, including both this season. The teams will
play again Wednesday night at the Delta Center.
The Rockets took the lead when Steve Francis
hit 1-of-2 free
throws with 1:03 left in the fourth quarter and Yao Ming
converted a pair from the line with 3.5 seconds remaining to
increase the advantage to 94-91.
But the Jazz tied it when Harpring, a 41 percent 3-point
shooter, arched a jumper over the outstretched hand of 7-5 Yao
Ming. Harpring made the inbounds pass, took a return feed from
and launched the tying shot.
"I was the third option," said Harpring, who finished with 24
points on 11-of-14 shooting. "We knew if we threw it in to
Karl, I was going to back door for the three. Right when I shot
it I thought, `Uh-oh, I've got to get this one up high.' I
knew it had a chance."
"He's a very, very good shooter," said Jazz coach Phil Johnson
who is filling in for the suspended Jerry Sloan. "He does have
a high arc on his shot and he made a big shot for us."
Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich was disappointed his team did not
foul before Harpring launched his shot.
"At the end (of regulation), we were supposed to foul, force
them to make free throws and we didn't," Tomjanovich said. "It
was heartbreaking. We did so many good things, and just one
blown assignment. We couldn't get it done."
Malone hit a 12-foot turnaround jumper 15 seconds into overtime
to put Utah ahead for good. After Cuttino Mobley
1-of-2 free throws for Houston, Harpring scored on a layup and a
corner jumper with 1:56 left to increase the lead to 100-95.
hit a pair of 3-pointers, the second coming with
39 seconds remaining and pulling the Rockets within 103-101.
After Utah's John Stockton
missed a foul line jumper with 19
seconds left, Yao grabbed the rebound and the Rockets called a
timeout. With the Jazz keying on Francis and Yao, Mobley had a
chance to tie it but missed an eight-foot jumper in the lane
with three seconds left.
"The ball was in Cuttino's hands," Yao said through an
interpreter. "They were double-teaming me and the best choice
was to pass the ball to the open man."
"It hurts because we played well enough to win," said Mobley,
who made just 2-of-13 shots. "If I had made a couple more
shots, I think we would have been more comfortable. I didn't
have a good shooting night, but we'll see what we can do when we
go up there tomorrow."
The loss, coupled with the Los Angeles Lakers' win over Denver,
cut Houston's lead to one-half game for the final Western
Conference playoff spot.
Malone took advantage of his weekend of rest after being snubbed
for the All-Star Game and scored 14 of his 33 points in the
fourth quarter, helping the Jazz rally from an eight-point
"I welcomed that time off," the 14-time All-Star forward said.
"You can say, I should have been there. As long as I'm an
All-Star for my teammates, I've got some satisfaction."
Stockton finished one rebound shy of his first regular season
triple-double, collecting 18 points, 11 assists and nine boards.
The 18-year veteran had a triple-double in a playoff game
against Dallas on April 28, 2001.
"If I get up to that number (of rebounds), it means I've chased
down some long ones," Stockton said.
Francis had 28 points and Yao added 25 and 10 rebounds for the
"Down the stretch, some things didn't go our way and I'm not
going to cry about it one bit," said Francis, who hit 10-of-17
shots. "We've got to suck it up and look forward to playing
them tomorrow. We have to come prepared tomorrow, and it's
going to be worse at their place."
The Rockets took their biggest lead, 82-73, on a hook shot by
with 8:45 left in the fourth quarter. But Malone
scored eight points to spark an 18-9 run over the next 7 1/2
Stockton capped the spurt with a three-point play, driving past
Francis and converting a layup as he was fouled with 1:14 left.
His free throw forged a 91-91 deadlock.
Francis drew a foul on center Greg Ostertag
driving to the
basket and converted 1-of-2 free throws with 1:03 left to give
the lead back to Houston.
After misses by Ostertag, Malone and Andrei Kirilenko
grabbed a rebound and was fouled by Kirilenko with 3.5 seconds
left. He converted both free throws before Harpring forced
Utah converted 12-of-15 shots in the first quarter but led just
26-24. Harpring and Malone were a combined 8-of-9 from the
field, but the Jazz committed seven turnovers.
Utah led by as many as six points in the second quarter. But
Yao scored eight points during a 17-8 run as the Rockets took a
45-42 lead with 1:48 left before halftime.
A 15-foot jumper by Malone with 28 seconds left put the Jazz
back in front at the break, 48-47.
Utah had a 67-61 lead with 3:45 left in the third quarter before
Yao made two free throws and a short jumper and Francis
connected on a 3-pointer, a pair of free throws and a short
jumper in an 11-0 run.