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Associated Press
Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap, right, forces a jump ball with Houston Rockets' Luis Scola, left, of Argentina, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, in Houston. The Rockets won 101-85.

Two teams battling for playoff spots squared off Sunday night, as the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets locked horns. Behind the support of their home crowd, the Rockets rode a 56-39 second half en route to an impressive 101-85 victory over the Jazz. Houston moved to 18-14, while Utah slipped to 15-15.

Knowing a road win would effectively tie the two teams, the Jazz gave a nice effort in the first half. They were particularly active defensively, tallying seven steals and six blocked shots. But the tables were turned in the second half, as Houston’s offense really clicked on the way to the easy win.

Rockets fired up: Another player on the lengthy All-Star snub list, Kyle Lowry, had a performance worthy of the midseason affair. He was the catalyst behind all the Houston runs, thanks to his outside shooting, playmaking and leadership. Usually backcourt mate Kevin Martin is the epitome of efficiency, but Lowry clearly took that honor Sunday night. His line: 9 of 13 field goals, 7 of 8 on 3-pointers, 7 for 7 free throws, 32 points, nine assists.

Luis Scola has struggled early on this season, but that did not show against the Jazz. Thanks to a dialed-in jump shot, some fine interior moves, and his running the floor effectively, Scola finished the evening with 26 points and nine rebounds.

Kevin McHale also enjoyed nice efforts from role players Courtney Lee, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson.

Costly fouls: After Utah made a spirited comeback, cutting a 13-point lead down to two points, Jazz swingman C.J. Miles committed a pair of costly fouls. With 4:33 left in the fourth quarter, he fouled Lee on a tough baseline jumper. Lee made two free throws. The occurrence repeated itself on the very next Houston possession, as Miles knocked down Lee on a made 3-pointer. While Lee missed the free throw, the damage was done. Houston emerged with an 88-80 lead and never looked back.

Quick hits:

The final box score does not indicate a disparity, with the Utah Jazz shooting 20 free throws compared to Houston’s 24. But the Jazz did not attempt a free throw until 8:30 was left in the third quarter.

Utah did not manage to score more than 24 points in any of the four quarters.

  • Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson together scored 45 of Utah’s 85 points.

    The Jazz bench shot a combined 6-30 from the floor, producing just 16 points total.

    Raja Bell’s streak continues on, as the starting shooting guard has now hit at least one 3-pointer in 18 consecutive outings.

    Recent signee Greg Smith, called up from the D-League earlier in the weekend, added a nice spark for Houston with four blocked shots.

    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 protected] or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.