In a game with huge postseason implications, the Utah Jazz earned perhaps their biggest win of the year so far by beating Houston 103-91. Gordon Hayward spearheaded the Utah attack with 29 points and six assists. Goran Dragic paced Houston with 19 points and seven assists.
Guards: Gordon Hayward came out of fire, scoring 12 of his points in the first quarter for the Jazz (31-28). He was brilliant the whole evening, making big play after big play. Backcourt mate Devin Harris was bogged down with foul trouble, totaling just six points in 21 minutes. Jamaal Tinsley was great in his place, playing a heady seven-point, four-assist game.
For the Rockets (32-26), Dragic continued his torrid play as he earned 14 free-throw attempts, most coming at Harris’ expense. Courtney Lee was so-so with nine points on just 4-of-11 shooting. Houston's Kyle Lowry, who is coming back from a long hiatus, penetrated at will at the start of the fourth quarter and had 15 points in the end. GRADE: B+
Forwards: As he is prone to do vs. Houston, Paul Millsap had a solid game with 21 points and seven boards, taking advantage of some mismatches. Making the most of injuries, DeMarre Carroll hustled his way to an energetic 10 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes.
Playing clutch minutes in the fourth quarter, Derrick Favors’ defense was vital, as was his double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). Rockets rookie Chandler Parsons had a nice outing with 13 points. Luis Scola was subpar with just 10 points. GRADE: A-
Centers: Al Jefferson was quiet Wednesday night, but still finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Enes Kanter was scoreless in 10 minutes but did have five boards in the first half. Houston's Marcus Camby turned back the clock in the first quarter and had nine points and 13 rebounds. GRADE: BComment on this story
Bench: Led by Lowry and big man Patrick Patterson (10 points, six boards) the Rockets' reserves outscored the Utah bench 31-22. But Favors and Tinsley were huge going down the stretch, making the little plays that lead to victories. Rookies Kanter and Alec Burks made modest contributions. For Houston, Chase Budinger struggled mightily, getting overpowered by Millsap and hitting just 2 of 11 from the field. GRADE: B
Overall: The Utah Jazz did what they had to do in a pressure-filled game, displaying one of their most complete performances of the season. They built a big lead, withstood a furious Houston run and emerged with a big, big win. GRADE: A-
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.