The Utah Jazz took control early, but turn overs allowed the Houston Rockets to make a game of it -- a game they ultimately lost in overtime 117-114. Tonight the stars really shone brightest, with James Harden scoring 42 points, Dwight Howard finishing with a double double and three blocks for Houston. For the good guys, Gordon Hayward dazzled with 28 points off of just 7 shots and Derrick Favors was a point shy of a 20-10 game. But the big difference was supporting the stars. And while Trevor Ariza finished with 18 points, I think Quin Snyder went with Rodney Hood, Shelvin Mack, and Trey Burke in crunch time and they combined for 50 points. All of them were needed to knock off the Rockets, who apparently never foul.
But that's just the end of the story. The full game was worthy of the stories Jazz / Rockets rivalry.
Utah was dominant in the first quarter with Shelvin Mack running things, and the defense clicking. They were up by 10 early, but the pace of play ended up with the Jazz finish the first with 34 points. That's rare.
They were up by 11 after one, but the second quarter (and really the offense stalled in the second half of the first quarter) saw the Jazz let Houston back in the game.
While the 2nd quarter wasn't a lot of fun, the 3rd quarter was where the Jazz let the Rockets take control, and Harden really started to cook. Houston really got into it on defense, forcing so many turn overs, and using their high volume approach to create shots and contact. As the road team they still managed to 'earn' 41 free throw attempts. Ridiculous.
With one frame left in regulation both teams were trying to knock the other out. Trey Burke and Chris Johnson were instrumental here.
CJ 0 to 60 real quick! https://t.co/yx9X0FOZaF— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 24, 2016
Chris was playing great defense, and Trey scored 11 points in the first few minutes. Gordon Hayward was cooking, but got poked in the eye by Ariza and had the leave a close game with about 5:20 left to play. Of course, as we all assumed, Trey Burke played great defense on Harden, and the Jazz were able to get the ball to Rodney Hood for some deep threes and free throw attempts.
Hayward returned to finish the game, but it wouldn't be in regulation.
Of course, overtime happened. It was the 8th overtime game for the team this year, and one where it was much closer than it needed to be. Part of that was Harden getting layups. Another part was offensive rebounding for Houston. Still another was scrubby guys hitting threes. But probably the largest factor was the refs being their normal Utah-hating selves.
Still though, Utah found a way to win. Tonight it was a 3rd chance put back by Derrick Favors AFTER a Dwight Howard goal-tend on a Derrick Favors shot. He was big all night long, and isn't going to get the mentions that Hayward will get. It's true, the Jazz aren't in a position to win without Gordon. And it's true, that the Jazz aren't treading water with Gordon out without the efforts of Rodney, Shelvin, and Trey. But this game isn't ended by anyone else but Favors.
A fantastic team effort where the Jazz got it done against a playoff opponent, and historical rival.
Utah has a night off before hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.