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Game Day: Rockets vs. Jazz

Analysis and observations from the Rockets' 124-86 win over the Utah Jazz

POST-GAME OBSERVATIONS

If your 3-time Defensive Player of the Year ever needs a night off to nurse a minor injury, Omer Asik is one heck of an insurance policy. With Dwight Howard out due to a mild left ankle strain, the Turkish center offered a resounding reminder of his own defensive chops Monday night while helping to lift Houston to an absolutely dominant first half of basketball. Asik racked up six points, nine boards and one spectacular swat during that time but, as is so often the case with the big man’s production, his impact extended far beyond the mere numbers he was posting. His positioning and rim protection were pitch perfect, and on the other end of the floor the screens he set were nothing short of devastating. Seriously, his picks unleash Houston’s perimeter playmakers the same way a punishing fullback frees his running back to wreak havoc upon opposing defenses. Asik was awesome in the first half and, not coincidentally, so were the Rockets as they hit the break with a thoroughly commanding 60-41 edge.

- Speaking of Asik’s screen setting, Jeremy Lin made excellent, efficient use of them while delivering 8 points and four assists off the bench during the opening two periods of play. In fact, both of Houston’s point guards delivered ample amounts of the good stuff as Pat Beverley rang up 10 points, 7 boards and a block by halftime as well.

And with Houston’s floor generals feeling it, the Rockets’ ball movement followed suit, producing one second quarter possession in particular during which the passing was so pristine and so exquisite that it instantly earned a spot inside the hallowed halls of a basketball museum somewhere. Seriously, it was downright Spurs-esque in its beauty.

- This was one of those games where the opposition had no good answer for defending James Harden and it showed early and often. Houston’s All-Star two-guard scored 37 points the last time he faced the Jazz and tonight’s first half came so easily to him that it seemed he could have equaled that mark by halftime if he’d forced the issue. Don’t let his relatively tame numbers fool you; Harden was getting anywhere he wanted on the offensive end, giving the Rockets’ offense a rather unstoppable look whenever he was on the floor.

Yes, it was that kind of start for Houston. Not only did Harden have it rolling but so too did Terrence Jones, who hit the break with 11 points and 3 blocked shots, hinting at the pyrotechnics still to come. The Rockets as a team shot better than 56 percent from both the field and the 3-point line. The Jazz, meanwhile, could muster nothing close to that sort of offensive firepower; a reality told in crystal clear clarity on Toyota Center scoreboard.  

- Any hopes the Jazz may have harbored for a St. Patrick’s Day miracle were summarily snuffed out by Jones at the start of the third quarter. TJ began the period by draining a pair of triples which not only served to increase Houston’s already sizable margin, but also accomplished the trick of turning Utah’s defenders into a biting mess. Every single perimeter pump fake he delivered the rest of the night prompted a Jazz defender to fly by, allowing Jones to cruise toward the rim time and time again. The second-year forward put on a show in the period, adding 13 points to his game-high total as the Rockets made sure the rout continued.

Jones’ monster 30-point night highlighted a phenomenon not unique to many of the league’s young players. The University of Kentucky product’s home/road splits certainly reveal his preference for the Toyota Center’s friendly confines as he came into tonight’s contest averaging 13.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game at home this season while shooting 58.1 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from beyond the arc. On the road, however, those numbers drop to 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and .9 blocks per game and a 48.8 percent mark from the field to go along with a 27 percent hit rate from downtown.

- This game in a nutshell: late in the third quarter, Enes Kanter followed up a missed jump hook by taking his sweet time while staring at his shoe which had somehow fallen off. During that time, Omer Asik sprinted the length of the floor and was rewarded with a pass that allowed him to throw down his fourth flush of the game.

- Tonight’s game was always going to be a monumental challenge for Utah. But with the way the Rockets shot the ball from long range (13-for-25 from 3), an already tough task was effectively turned into mission impossible. In fact, Houston’s scintillating shooting conjured more than a few memories of that magical night in Salt Lake City last season when the Rockets thumped Utah 125-80.

Nearly every Houston player who saw significant minutes shined tonight: J-Lin finished with 17 points and 9 assists, Asik had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards and Beverley tallied 19 points and 7 rebounds as well. Total domination.

- With their 124-86 win, the Rockets improve to 45-22 on the season. Up next: a Thursday night home date with the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

Omer played really well. He had that role all of last year so it wasn’t like it was the first time I’ve seen it – I’ve seen it many times. He rebounded the ball well, anchored the defense, was aggressive all around the basket.

Terrence had a really good game and Pat came out with great juice; I thought that was really important and thought Patrick kind of set the tone with his juice and moving … He came out with really high, high energy and was just buzzing around out there.

We’re getting down now to 15 games. It really is good preparation for the playoffs so every time we come in and in everything we do we have to be really sharp.

(on young guys playing better at home)

Both (Jones and Motiejunas) are essentially in their first year and they’re both just getting better. Terrence is a guy who can really affect games and D-Mo is the same thing. They both can handle the ball, they both move well without the ball, they both can run dribble hand-offs and pass, so they’re both, for 22-year-old kids, they’re very good and I think they’re just going to keep getting better.

They’re going to be a bit up-and-down at times, but all young guys are. I think there are times that, as a staff, and where we’re at we’ve got to understand that this is Pat’s second year in the NBA, Chandler is in his third year and Terrence is essentially in his first year, D-Mo in his first year – we don’t have a lot of grizzly, gnarly old vets. So sometimes those guys are going to be a bit up-and-down but they’ve been really good. Jeremy is catching a rhythm again which is really what we need; we need Jeremy playing well. We need all nine guys that play to play well.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(on Omer)

To have the luxury of having him come off the bench is huge for us. He’s been great for us all year long. Defensively, he’s unbelievable. His pick-and-roll coverage is unbelievable, his rebounding – he’s a legit center.

JAMES HARDEN

(on Omer)

Everyone knows what Omer can do. He did it so many games last year, he just doesn’t get the same opportunity because we have Dwight. But whenever he has the opportunity he’s so professional … with Dwight out and it’s time for him to step up he gets a double-double. It’s great to have that combination of bigs. We have a great backup center. No matter who is on the court, if we play the right way we’re going to be good.

JEREMY LIN

(on Omer)

I’m so happy for him. He’s had a diminished role this year so for him to go out there and do what he did tonight … it was good to see.

(on Beverley’s energy)

He did a great job. The thing that stuck out to me the most is he was getting every defensive rebound to start the game. We talked about how that’s been a problem for us is our guard rebounding and he did a great job, and that freed everybody else up and ignited our break.

TERRENCE JONES

We just wanted to be aggressive. Just coming off three tough ones we wanted to come out here with a lot of energy and get back to playing Rockets basketball.

(on playing better at home)

Just the fans being behind us and the energy they bring and just how comfortable I feel playing here helps out a lot.

NOTES

Houston registered another sold out crowd of 18,156 tonight. Overall, it gives the Rockets 31 sellouts on the season, extending the new single-season record for Toyota Center (prev. best: 28 sellouts in 2007-08).

The Rockets recorded their largest margin of victory this season with a 124-86 (+38) win over the Jazz tonight. Houston also ran its active home winning streak to a season-best nine in a row (1/28/14-3/17/14).

Houston led by as much as 41 points tonight. The last time the Rockets led by at least 40 points in game was back on 1/28/13 at Utah (+50 lead, 125-80 win).

The Rockets handed out 31 assists tonight, which marked fourth time this season Houston has eclipsed the 30-assist mark.

Houston went hit a season-best .582 (46-79 FG, 13-25 3FG) from the field, surpassing its previous high of .569 vs. Boston (11/19/13) and .569 at Sacramento (2/25/14). The Rockets have now reached .500 from the field in four of the last six meetings with the Jazz.

The Rockets ran off with a season-high 30 fast break points. Houston came into this meeting averaging 20.5 fast-break points over its previous 13 games.

Houston took the battle of the boards by 46-34 (+12) tonight. The Rockets have now taken the battle of the boards by a double-digit margin 17 times this season.

The Rockets netted 60 first-half points tonight. Houston is now 20-3 this season when opening a game with 60 or more points in the first half.

Houston had 12 blocks tonight. The Rockets have now notched eight or more blocks in 13 games in 2013-14 (Rockets record: 12-1).

Terrence Jones finished with a game-high 30 points (11-15 FG, 3-4 3FG, 5-7 FT) and four blocks tonight. Jones has now reached at least 20 points on eight occasions this season (Rockets record: 8-0), which includes a pair of 30-point performances.

Pat Beverley totaled 19 points (6-9 FG, 5-5 FT), seven rebounds and three assists tonight. Beverley came into this game off a 15-point, four-steal effort at Miami (3/16/14).

Omer Asik, who started at center tonight, posted 12 points (5-12 FG) and 11 rebounds tonight. It marked his first double-double since 10 points (4-9 FG) and 12 boards last season vs. Sacramento (4/14/13).

Donatas Motiejunas grabbed 11 boards to mark his second double-figure rebounding game of 2013-14.

Jeremy Lin came off the bench with 17 points (7-10 FG), nine assists and two blocks. Since coming to Houston, the Rockets are now 24-9 (.727) overall when Lin reaches at least eight assists in a game.

Dwight Howard (mild left ankle strain) and Omri Casspi (flu) are both out of tonight’s game.

Derrick Favors and Alec Burks each had a team-high 15 points for the Jazz. Neither the Rockets nor the Jazz had the same leading scorer in any of the three meetings this season.

All 13 players to enter the game for the Jazz tonight had at least one field goal.