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The Roundup—Jazz 115, Rockets 108
Playing shorthanded on the road against the red-hot Houston Rockets, the Utah Jazz weren't widely expected to put up much of a fight Wednesday night.
Except they did more than that, shooting (and defending, of course) their way to a 115-108 victory that pulled them to within three games of the Rockets for third place in the Western Conference standings.
"It's a great win, but we've got a lot of big games coming up," Rudy Gobert said afterward. "We've got to enjoy it and then be ready for OKC."
Gobert and Gordon Hayward scored 23 points each, while Joe Johnson returned from a three-game absence to add 16 points while starting for Derrick Favors (knee). George Hill (toe) missed his second straight game for the Jazz (41-24).
Rodney Hood started and scored 19 points in 35 minutes.
Houston's James Harden led all scorers with 35 points, but he finished with only six assists (and committed six turnovers). Harden shot 10-for-22 from the field and 15-for-16 from the free-throw line.
Clint Capela finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Rockets (44-21) in the loss.
Hayward scored an efficient 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting (including 3-for-6 from 3-point range). He also went 4-for-4 from the line and added seven rebounds and four assists. Many of Hayward's points came at important times—he scored seven points late in the third quarter when Houston was threatening to take the lead, and then sank a big 3-pointer and two free throws late in the game to help Utah ice the victory.
Late in the first quarter after the Rockets had taken what would be their largest lead of the game (two points), the Jazz rolled off a 7-0 run. Johnson made two free throws; Hayward canned a three from straight on; and Gobert deflected a pass by Harden and then sprinted down the court to finish with a left-handed dunk at the other end. Utah went on to take an eight-point lead by the end of the quarter and wouldn't trail again.
The Rockets, though, kept things close with an 8-0 run that pulled them within four midway through the third quarter. After Harden pumped up the crowd by swatting Raul Neto's layup attempt into the crowd, Hayward and Gobert reponded by connecting on an alley-oop slam off the ensuing inbounds pass. Hayward would add a jumper, a 3-pointer and two free throws to help Utah maintain and then extend its lead when Houston went cold again later in the quarter.
With the game still close in the final minutes, the Jazz made enough plays to claim the win. Hayward drilled a three from the wing. Gobert tipped in a miss by Joe Ingles. Johnson canned a dagger three. And Gobert slipped in a wrap-around layup. Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley missed a transition layup and Harden air-balled a 3-point attempt for the Rockets.
The Rockets entered the night averaging 16.4 3-pointers over their past 10 games, but they shot only 8-for-32 (25.0 percent) against the Jazz. Harden went 0-for-8 from long distance, while Beverley, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams combined to shoot 5-for-16.
The Jazz shot the ball extremely well, going 41-for-76 (53.9 percent) from the field, including 12-for-31 (38.7 percent) from 3-point range, for an effective field goal percentage of 61.8. They also went 21-for-24 (87.5 percent) from the free-throw line.
Coach's Quote of the Night
"Houston's a unique team, obviously one of the top teams in the league. We want to get to that level, and we're a ways away, but we played well tonight. The guys competed. A lot of times you just have to be fortunate against a team that good. We were lucky tonight that they missed a few shots, and we were able to make a few."
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
With their 41st win of the season the Jazz have now won more games than they did last year, and the most since they won 43 in 2012-13. ... Every Utah player who saw the court scored at least four points. ... Danté Exum started in place of Hill but was limited to nine minutes because of foul trouble. ... The Jazz outrebounded the Rockets 45-31 and scored 17 second-chance points to Houston's 11. ... Utah's 19 turnovers led to 18 Houston points. Houston only turned the ball over eight times, which led to 11 Utah points. ... The Rockets shot 40 free throws. The Jazz shot 24.
The Jazz will have a few days off before they travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS.