(The Sports Xchange) - James Harden tallied a game-high 33 points and the Houston Rockets wrangled control in the second half by quickening the tempo to surge past the Utah Jazz 103-94 on Thursday at Toyota Center.
The Rockets (18-19) scored 64 second-half points while shooting 65.7 percent from the floor to erase what was once a seven-point deficit. Houston produced 12 fast-break points following the intermission, 10 in the third quarter, to set the pace.
“I think we were playing for the most part pretty well defensively, offensively we were too slow,” Harden said of the first half. “We wanted to put an emphasis on pushing the basketball, getting stops and just running out.”
With the Jazz (15-20) fighting to remain in contention, Harden drilled a step-back elbow jumper with 2:46 remaining before adding a driving layup with 1:51 left to keep the advantage at 96-90.
He finished 13-for-25 from the floor despite missing all seven of his three-point attempts.
Terrence Jones chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds, while Jason Terry and Marcus Thornton scored 12 points apiece off the Houston bench.
Harden added eight rebounds and two of the Rockets’ 11 steals. Houston scored 16 points off 19 Utah turnovers.
”When you turn a team over you’ve got to take advantage of it,“ interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said ”You’ve got to get out on the floor. You’ve got to push.
“In the second half ... we committed to that and it was effective.”
Gordon Hayward paced the Jazz with 15 points, while Trevor Booker (12), Chris Johnson (11) and Trey Burke (10) scored in double figures off the bench. Utah dropped their third consecutive game and second to Houston this week.
The Rockets perked up when Jazz guard Rodney Hood was lost to an ankle injury with 8:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Hood paced Utah with 10 points at the point of his departure, and the Jazz led 48-46 after Harden scored a transition layup with Hood writhing on the floor in pain.
The Rockets posted 33 points in the third quarter after scoring just 39 in the first half. Harden poured in 16 in the period and assisted Trevor Ariza for a three-pointer after recording a block as the lone defender during a three-on-one break for the Jazz.
Ariza pushed the Rockets to a 57-55 lead with 5:33 left in the period, an advantage Houston did not relinquish in the fourth quarter.
The third quarter marked a departure from the Rockets’ second-quarter woes. Houston missed 17 of 24 shots in the second period and closed the half 1 for 10 from behind the arc.
And while Utah stood at a deficit in paint points and failed to score in transition by the break, the Rockets’ errant shooting helped the Jazz to a 44-39 halftime lead.
“I thought it was a hell of an effort by us,” Hayward said. “We competed through all the circumstances. Rodney going down, losing another key guy, and we’re still battling and still in the game at the end.”
Utah center Rudy Gobert, making his first appearance following an 18-game injury hiatus, provided an immediate boost during his five minutes in the first quarter when the Jazz outscored Houston by 10 with Gobert on the floor. Houston led 10-2 before surrendering an 11-1 run.
“This game was just to see how I was feeling,” said Gobert, who had six points and three rebounds in 15 minutes while playing with a bulky brace on his left knee. “I feel great, and I‘m not tired at all. Next game I‘m probably going to play double the minutes.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford