HOUSTON — The one bright spot in the Jazz loss Wednesday was the play of the five players who finished the game for the Jazz and made it a five-point game with 90 seconds left.
The unlikely group included Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward on the guard line with Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors at forward and Al Jefferson at center. Except for Randy Foye coming in for 14 seconds at the end, that fivesome played the entire fourth quarter.
The guards led the charge as Hayward scored 14 of his team-high 27 points in the final 12 minutes, while Burks scored nine of his 11 points, while running the offense.
"I thought the group that finished the game for us did a good job of fighting our way back into it," said coach Tyrone Corbin. "They brought energy. They just decided to lay it out on both ends of the floor, not worrying about holding anything back."
Corbin used Burks at the point again after starter Mo Williams was ineffective and Jamaal Tinsley committed three turnovers in less than six minutes as the first backup.
Of Burks, Corbin said, "He made some mistakes, but he played hard and that's the main thing. Took him awhile to settle down, but once he did, he played well for us."
"I was just trying to fight hard, but we just didn't have enough time to win the game," said Burks. "We got off to a slow start and we overcame that and we played hard, but we didn't get the win."
"We played hard and competed out there," said Hayward. "I think we work well off each other. He did a real good job of attacking in the fourth quarter and tried to make plays. That's when Alec is at his best."
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Jazz missed a great chance to improve their playoff chances with a victory Wednesday night.
Instead of pulling within a game of the Rockets, they are now three games behind and they lost the tiebreaker as Houston has a 3-1 edge in the season series. If the Jazz had won, it would have been 2-2 in the series and the Jazz have a big edge over Houston in the Western Conference games, the next tiebreaker. So it was really a three-game difference Wednesday.
Now the Jazz must set their sights on the Lakers, who are a game and a half ahead of them in the standings at 36-33. The Jazz have 14 games remaining, including eight at home, but only six games are against teams in playoff position.
LAST TIME: Before the game, there was a lot of talk, at least among the media, about the 45-point beating the Rockets administered the last time the two teams played and how they seemingly poured it on by making eight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of a blowout victory.
The Jazz tried to downplay that, even if they secretly harbored some resentment over the way they were beaten.
"At the level, nobody's going to feel sorry for you," said Corbin. "They shoot 3-point shots, they continue to shoot them and make them because they were winning the game and there's time on the clock — we can't expect them not to shoot, they were shooting them and making them."
"I think they looked at it like we've got to play these guys again and take these guys out right now and shake their confidence," said Paul Millsap. "If it was us, we'd probably do the same thing. I'm not saying it was wrong or right. It's what they did."
Mo Williams agreed, saying, "I'd expect them to, if I'm in the same position I'd do the same thing."
JAZZ NOTES: After the game, the Jazz flew over to San Antonio, where they'll take on the Western Division-leading Spurs who have won 24 of the past 26 meetings with the Jazz at home. … Coach Kevin McHale was worried about the Jazz edge in rebounding before the game, but his team won the board battle 44-36. … The Jazz had a lot of early turnovers, but the Rockets ended up with one more than the Jazz, 15-14. … James Harden was nearly perfect from the free-throw line, making 17 straight before missing one with five seconds left. … Harden made more free throws than the entire Jazz team, which went 16 for 20.