Harden nets season-best in Rockets’ loss to Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gordon Hayward’s pinpoint shooting got the Utah Jazz off to their best start of the season and Marvin Williams made the plays at the end for their most impressive victory of the season.
Williams scored five points in the final two minutes, Hayward broke out of a shooting slump to score 29 points and the Jazz earned their first back-to-back wins of the season with a 109-103 victory over the Rockets on Monday night.
“What a huge win for us,” Williams said. “Houston has been playing really, really well. For them to come into our building and put up a big-time fight and then for us to come out on top is a great feeling.”
With Utah clinging to a 101-98 lead, Williams stole James Harden’s pass and raced down for a dunk with 2 minutes left.
“Thankfully I was able to take advantage of a miscommunication on their part. It was a huge break for us,” Williams said.
Williams, who has been playing with a mask since breaking his nose last month, then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 59 seconds to go to boost the lead to 108-100.
“Gordon made a very, very unselfish play,” Williams said. “I thought he was going to shoot it. He was really going and had been making plays all night for us. I’m glad I stayed there and stayed ready.”
Rookie Trey Burke posted career highs of 21 points and six assists for Utah, which shot 54 percent and made 10 of 17 from beyond the arc. The Jazz were coming off a 112-104 win over the Suns on Saturday
Harden had 15 of his season-best 37 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Rockets close, but they couldn’t get enough defensive stops.
“We just didn’t defend. We go through mental lapses where we don’t lock down on the defensive end. We gave up too many points to fight our way back,” Harden said.
For a change, it was the Jazz making crucial plays at the end.
“We’re learning from the other games and not making the same mistakes twice,” Hayward said. “Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot of improvement as a basketball team and as individuals, but it’s good to see we didn’t let this one slip away like we did early in the year.”
Dwight Howard had 15 points and Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi had 13 apiece as Houston lost for only the second time in its last 10 games. The Rockets have averaged 111 points on 51 percent shooting during the stretch.
Harden weaved through a trio of Jazz players and scored a crafty layup to tie the game at 86-all with 8:07 to play. Alec Burks answered with a 3-pointer and the Jazz led the rest of the way.
Burke started the season on the injured list with a broken finger but has found his rhythm in the past few games. His hot play has coincided with Utah’s best stretch of the season as the Jazz have won three of four after dropping 14 of their first 15 games.
“It’s a matter of the players and coaches having confidence in me and just taking what the defense is giving me,” Burke said.
The Jazz put the ball in the rookie’s hands and let him make plays down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, Burke had seven points and six assists and marked a career-best in points for second straight game. Add in Hayward’s savvy all-court game and the Jazz finally look like a formidable team at times.
“The greatest thing was (Hayward and Burke) made plays for their teammates,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. “They attacked and were able to get everybody involved and it threw (Houston) off a little bit.”
Hayward made 12 of 18 shots to regain his shooting confidence. His early hot streak sparked the Jazz to lead by as many as 14 points in the first half. Over the previous nine games, Hayward made just 36 of 123 attempts for 29 percent.
“I got going early by getting some easy buckets in transition and anytime you see the ball go through the hoop like that, it sets the tone,” said Hayward, who had 17 points in the first quarter.
The Jazz shot 59 percent from 3-point range, while Houston hit 32 percent (9 of 28) from beyond the arc.
The two teams played here exactly one month ago when Chandler Parsons scored 24 points and the Rockets outscored the Jazz 64-37 in the second half to win 104-93. Parsons sat out this game with a sore back and the Rockets had only Harden and Aaron Brooks, who had 13 points, as playmakers in the fourth quarter.
“We had plenty of guys to win this game today. It had nothing to do with who wasn’t there,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said.
Since Burke recovered sufficiently to play starter minutes, the Jazz have reached 100 points in three games for the first time all season. Before this run, Utah only had one contest in which they topped the century mark.
NOTES: Jeremy Lin missed his third game with a sprained and bruised right knee. … Houston was outscored 36-23 in the first quarter. … The Rockets had 54 points in the paint.