Buck Johnson scored 23 points and reserve Eric "Sleepy" Floyd finished with 22 Saturday, giving Houston its fourth straight victory with a 97-88 win over Utah and sending the Rockets past the Jazz into second place in the Midwest Division.
Hakeem Olajuwon added 19 points and 17 rebounds for the Rockets, who have lost just five of their last 34 games. Houston is now just a half-game behind division leader San Antonio.Karl Malone scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, Jeff Malone added 16 points and John Stockton 15 for the Jazz, who have lost just four of their last 11 games.
Johnson scored 13 points and Floyd came off the bench to add 11, helping Houston to a 48-40 lead at halftime.
Kenny Smith completed a 3-point play to start the second half and the Rockets lead was 11.
Utah closed within 7 four times, but consecutive baskets by Johnson pushed the lead to 13 points with 3:32 left in the quarter.
Utah was back within 7 entering the fourth quarter and a basket by Mike Brown with 10:12 left got the Jazz within 74-68.
Houston came back with six straight to go up by 12. Karl Malone sparked one last rally, scoring seven points, including a fall-away jumper with 3:58 left, to trim the Houston lead to 86-79.
Again, Houston countered as Otis Thorpe sank a pair of free throws and Olajuwon completed a 3-point play and Houston's lead was 12 with 2:21 left. Utah got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Utah scored the first six points of the game while the Rockets were just 1 of 5 from the field.
But Houston stayed close and Floyd came off the bench to cap a 6-0 run late in the quarter to give the Rockets their first lead, 23-21.
Floyd then scored 9 of Houston's first 13 points in the second quarter to give the Rockets an 8-point cushion, which held until halftime.