SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Two point guards were plenty for the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
“They did great tonight,” said forward Matt Harpring, who pulled down 10 rebounds for the Jazz. “They’re young and talented.”
Lopez and Williams are sharing the point duties as starter Carlos Arroyo recovers from a sprained left ankle. The Jazz considered trying to bring in a veteran to help while Arroyo is out, but decided against it and left the offense in the hands of the two young guards who hadn’t played an NBA game this season.
It looked like a good decision Wednesday. Williams was steady after taking over when Lopez missed much of the second and third quarters with foul trouble. Then Lopez returned and helped Utah seal it and improve to 7-1 at home.
“I felt real comfortable, especially as the game went on. I had to get into a rhythm,” said Williams, who also had five assists and topped his previous career-high scoring total by three points. “In the fourth quarter we ran our offense and hit shots.”
Andrei Kirilenko scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and had five blocks as the Jazz limited Houston’s Yao Ming to six points from the field. Yao made up for it by hitting 14 of 16 free throws and pulling down 10 rebounds, but the Rockets could never get their offense going consistently and finished 25-for-75 from the floor.
“We didn’t make the shots that we normally make and that hurts us, especially against a gritty, gritty team like Utah,” said Francis, who was 5-for-15.
Greg Ostertag pulled down nine rebounds for the Jazz, who prevailed on a night both teams struggled with their shooting.
The Jazz were just 20-for-52 after three quarters, then made 13 of 24 in the final period as the Rockets continued to struggle.
“I thought our guys played better in the second half, and seemed to do a better job trying to defend them,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
Kirilenko scored 11 of the Jazz’s first 17 points in the fourth. Lopez then took over after Eric Piatkowski made a 3-pointer to cut Utah’s lead to 71-70.
Lopez hit a pair of 3-pointers with a layup through traffic in between on an 8-1 Utah run in the final three minutes. Jim Jackson cut the lead to 79-73 with a free throw for Houston, but Kirilenko made a putback with about a minute left to put it away.
Williams had a career-best 26 minutes. His previous highs were 25 minutesand seven points in a blowout loss at Dallas in the second game of the season.
Francis was booed loudly every time he touched the ball and cheered when he was called for fouling Kirilenko on a dunk attempt. … University of Utah football coach Urban Meyer, whose team won the Mountain West Conference, received a loud ovation when he and his daughter were introduced in the third quarter. … Former Utah players Scott Padgett and John Amaechi were returning to Salt Lake City. Padgett didn’t take a shot in his four minutes and Amaechididn’t play.