By the time Francisco Garcia found some space behind the arc, and buried a 3-pointer late in the first half Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena, the Rockets had completely negated one of the Utah Jazz’s best quarters of the season.
The team’s hot shooting and 36 first-quarter points were suddenly not enough. Neither was that 14-point advantage, now a one-point lead for Houston.
Storylines Jazz 109, Rockets 103Gordon Hayward scores 17 of his season-high 29 points in the first quarter.
» The Jazz improve to 4-15, winning consecutive games for the first time all year.
» The team is now 3-2 with rookie Trey Burke starting at point guard.
"Earlier in the season, we would have let this one go," Utah’s Gordon Hayward said.
The Jazz had seemingly lost this game once before — letting the Rockets come back from a double-digit deficit to walk out of Salt Lake City with a victory one month earlier.
But Monday night would be different.
The Jazz absorbed the rally and, this time, punched back. The 109-103 victory for the Jazz (4-15) was the team’s second in a row and its third in four games.
"I think it shows the growth of our team to stay poised, stay calm and still win the basketball game," said Hayward, who finished with a season-high 29 points.
Coming into the contest, Hayward was shooting just 38 percent from the floor, but the fourth-year swingman broke out of his season-long slump in a big way Monday. He slashed to the rim early and often, scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first.
"Gordon’s a smart basketball player," coach Ty Corbin said. "He knows how to read situations in the game. It’s always better to get a couple easy ones to go in the hole. Now you’re jump shot feels a little better."
In the end, Hayward hit on 12 of his 18 attempts, and the Jazz shot above 50 percent from the floor for a second straight game.
Houston was without guard Jeremy Lin and forward Chandler Parsons, a duo that combined for 44 points in the win over the Jazz in November. Nevertheless, the Rockets battled behind a game-high 37 points from James Harden. The All-Star guard’s layup early in the fourth quarter tied the game at 86.
But the Jazz countered with big games from guards Trey Burke and Alec Burks.
Coming off one of his best games of the year in Phoenix, Burks went for 21 points, four assists and three rebounds off the bench for the Jazz.
And Burke, the rookie point guard, didn’t wait long after scoring 20 points against the Suns to hit a new career mark. His 21 points and six assists against Houston were both tops for his young career.
Burke continued to show his poise when it matters most, scoring 11 points and dishing three assists without a turnover in the second half.
"We’re throwing a lot of stuff at him," Corbin said. "We’re putting a lot of responsibility on him, but he seems to be able to handle it."
Burke hit another big fourth-quarter three, as the Jazz improved to 3-2 with him as the starting point guard. He dribbled through traffic and found Derrick Favors for two of his 14 points. Favors also added 13 rebounds, while battling against fellow Atlanta native Dwight Howard.
With time winding down, Burke drew a pair of defenders, and found an open Hayward, who made one more pass to Marvin Williams for a 3-pointer to put Houston away.
"That’s just sharing the basketball," Hayward said afterward. "That’s guys having fun. That’s winning basketball."
And that’s something the Jazz certainly wouldn’t have done a month ago.
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