In one of the most spirited, complete efforts of the season, the Utah Jazz came to play Wednesday night and snatched a huge road victory in their push for the playoffs. Ahead most of the game, the Jazz held off the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter, winning 103-91 and keeping their postseason dreams very much alive.
Brilliant Efficiency: It can be argued that sophomore Gordon Hayward has been the most consistent player for the Utah Jazz the second half of the season. Wednesday was additional evidence for that argument. In an excellent display of efficiency, Hayward destroyed the Rockets with an impressive offensive stat line: 9 of 14 from the field, 4 of 5 on 3-pointers and a perfect 7 of 7 from the free-throw line en route to a game-high 29 points.
He also added six assists and two steals and played some solid defense in the second half. Gordon Hayward is clearly a reason for Utah Jazz fans to be optimistic about now and the future.
Defensive Dominance: The last time these two teams locked horns in Houston, back in February, the Rockets were on fire, shooting 51 percent from the field, including 10 treys in 19 attempts. Behind some lackadaisical defense, Utah fell 101-85.
Things were dramatically different in Wednesday’s rematch. The Jazz were spry and quick, rotated well, played excellent team defense and talked and helped each other out.
After a fairly nice start, Houston was held to just 31-of-87 shooting for the game —35.6 percent. A team that relies on the long ball, the Rockets missed 16-of-20 attempts from downtown. Kyle Lowry, who made 7-of-8 3-pointers in February, had just one thanks to the Jazz point guards’ emphasis on guarding him.
Utah also added eight more block shots, with three apiece coming from Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. Paul Millsap, seventh in the NBA in steals, led the Jazz with three thefts, as the team had seven total.
It should also be noted that Utah shot 51.3 percent from the field and made 6-of-14 three-pointers.
- The Houston point guard tandem of Goran Dragic and Lowry had a combined 34 points and 12 assists. Conversely, Utah’s duo of Devin Harris and Jamaal Tinsley had just 13 points and nine dimes. But they played a steady game and helped orchestrate the win.
- Dragic, Lowry, Luis Scola, Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger combined to shoot 17 of 56, a mere 30.4 percent.
- With the exception of the foul-plagued Harris, the other Jazz starters each had at least a +10 +/- rating for the game.
David Smith is providing instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.