A furious comeback in one half couldn't compensate for lackadaisical basketball in the other half. Through 24 minutes, the Houston Rockets simply dominated the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. Ultimately, Utah’s admirable effort in the fourth quarter just fell short as Houston held on for a 100-93 win.
On Jan. 28, the Rockets throttled the Jazz 125-80, and early on Wednesday, it appeared that Utah might be in for a repeat drubbing. The Jazz’s offense was broken, filled with little player or ball movement. Rather than imposing its offensive schemes, thanks to a stingy Houston defense, Utah was resigned to lots of forced shots. the Jazz's defense was likewise deficient as the Rockets were fluid and efficient. Utah faced a 52-33 deficit at halftime.
After matching Houston’s 28 third-quarter minutes, Utah still found itself down by 19 entering the final stanza. The quintet of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Marvin Williams, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks injected a burst of energy. Through increased defense and passing, the Jazz were able to battle back. Shots started to fall and Utah got within five points. It was a matter of too little, too late, although the fourth-quarter push was a welcome sight for a struggling team.
After winning three games heading into the trade deadline, Utah has since dropped 10 of 13 and finds itself on the outside looking in at the Western Conference postseason.
Houston’s Additions: The Rockets made three high-profile additions in signing point guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik and then trading for superstar James Harden. All three have been paying off this season, with Wednesday being prime evidence.
Lin was the main reason Houston held on down the stretch. He repeatedly penetrated past the Utah defense for easy shots for himself or others. He finished the night shooting 9 of 13 from the floor en route to a 24-point, six-assist outing.
Asik continues to be exceptional on defense. He frustrated Al Jefferson in the first half, which helped the Rockets get off to their quick start. He was near his season averages with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Harden was simply brilliant in the first half, scoring 20 of his 29 points. His crafty moves and aggressiveness earned him 18 trips to the free-throw line.
Odd and Ends:
• Gordon Hayward was stellar in the second half. With 27 points and eight rebounds versus Houston, he now is averaging 20.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists since being inserted into the starting lineup. He’s also connecting on 9 of 16 three-pointers during that span.
• Conversely, DeMarre Carroll has not played the past three games since leaving the starting lineup.
• Starters Mo Williams and Paul Millsap did not play in the fourth quarter and Randy Foye only played the final 23 seconds.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.