It is amazing the difference a good point guard can make. With a healthy Trey Burke at the helm, the Utah Jazz are starting to make some positive things happen. Case in point: defeating a very good Houston Rockets team 109-103 Monday night. Suddenly Utah has won two consecutive outings and three of the past four games.
Burke started out the season in a suit as a broken finger derailed the start of his rookie campaign. Since his return two weeks ago, he has improved each game out. Two nights after establishing his career-high 20 points versus the Phoenix Suns, Burke eclipsed that against the Rockets with 21.
And not only has the confident point guard improved, but so has the entire team. Facing a formidable Houston squad did not faze the young Jazz team. Utah controlled things for much of the night and managed to counter each Rockets run. When the final buzzer sounded, the Jazz had earned their biggest victory of the young season.
In another big test, Utah will face the Indiana Pacers and their 16-2 record Wednesday.
Backcourt brilliance: Burke was not the only Utah guard who had an exceptional evening. Gordon Hayward had a much-needed hot-shooting evening. On an array of offensive moves, the swingman was dominant in the first quarter, tallying 17 of his team-high 29 points. He added five rebounds and three assists, including the pass that resulted in a Marvin Williams 3-pointer that sealed the win.
Alec Burks has had his ups and downs thus far in the season. Right now, he is riding the ups. For the second straight solid effort, he showed nice patience and poise off the bench for Utah. Burks was terrifically efficient, connecting on 7 of 11 shots, including 3 of 4 from downtown. Along with his 21 points, he chipped in four assists with zero turnovers.
Burke repeatedly made the right plays down the stretch, from key dishes to teammates to huge threes or forays to the basket. He had six assists and hit three of six 3-pointers himself.
Collectively, the trio went a sizzling 28 of 47 from the floor — 59.6 percent. All three scored over 20, combining for 71 points, as well as 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
Matching up with Dwight: Utah big man Derrick Favors had his hands full as he was pitted against one of the NBA’s best in Dwight Howard. And he was up for the challenge. Howard had 15 points and nine rebounds in a relatively pedestrian performance. Favors countered with a perfect evening, hitting all six field goal attempts and two free throws en route to a 14-point, 13-rebound effort. His defense was integral inside for Utah.
This and that:
• Utah picked up where it left off Saturday, scorching the nets all evening against Houston. The team went 43 of 79 from the field, good for 54.4 percent. The Jazz were honed especially from the perimeter, draining 10 of 17 3-pointers.
• Houston guard James Harden showed why he is an MVP candidate by pouring in 37 points while handing out eight assists.
• For the second game, Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin went with the same nine-man rotation.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN.com's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.