Fisher had 13 points, six assists and one crucial steal down the stretch of his Utah debut to help the Jazz beat the Houston Rockets 107-97 Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
After Utah’s 20-point lead dwindled to five, Fisher took over and showed why the Jazz traded for him this summer.
“We’re not going to be able to depend on one or two guys to carry us through the whole season,” Fisher said. “We have to play as a team, to think as a team and we did that for the most part tonight.”
Fisher’s finish and double-doubles by Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams helped the Jazz to their fourth straight season-opening victory. Boozer had 24 points and 19 rebounds and Williams finished with 18 points and 10 assists, joining the 10-year veteran Fisher in the backcourt.
Fisher hit a baseline jumper, made a sneaky steal and then beat a double-team with a pass to Williams for an easy layup as the Jazz scored eight straight points in the final 2:30.
Fisher missed most of the preseason with a bruised tailbone after landing on it in a preseason game at Indiana on Oct. 14.
“He hasn’t practiced with us very much, but he’s in great shape and ready to step out there and play,” coach Jerry Sloan said. “Fortunately, time worked out to where we could play him down the stretch and he was able to make some great plays for us.”
“As long as we ran our offense, we got decent shots,” Sloan said. “I thought everybody was alive. Everybody was really playing hard to try to do the right thing.”
Tracy McGrady led the Rockets with 25 points. Yao Ming added 22 points and nine rebounds, Rafer Alston scored 15, Kirk Snyder scored 13 and Shane Battier had 11 as all of Houston’s starters scored in double figures.
The Rockets’ reserves, however, combined for just 11 points and Houston had just 36 rebounds to Utah’s 47.
“This was a game for us to see where we were and obviously we weren’t ready for this,” McGrady said. “Loose balls, on the ground … They did whatever it took to win this ballgame and that’s why they won.”
Williams, the third overall draft pick in 2005, and Fisher led Utah’s most potent offense in years. The Jazz beat Houston for some easy layups, but also shot well from the outside while winning their season opener for the fourth straight year.
Fisher was acquired from Golden State in a trade last summer and got a warm welcome from the Jazz fans when he came off the bench in the first quarter. At the end, he had the home fans roaring with some hustling plays and clutch shooting after the Jazz let the Rockets back into it.
Alston hit a 3-pointer to cap an 11-2 run that got the Rockets within 99-94 with 3:32 left in the game. But the Jazz didn’t allow the Rockets to score again until Battier’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, well after Utah had sealed it with eight straight points.
“We tried to play as an offensive team tonight versus a well-balanced team,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “Well-balanced teams win.”
Okur hit a 20-foot jumper, then Williams hit a jumper in the lane to put Utah up 103-94. McGrady was short on a jump shot and the Jazz got the rebound. Fisher handled the ball this time and his baseline jumper with 1:12 left put the Jazz ahead 105-94 and had the home fans roaring when Houston called a timeout.
The Rockets went right to Yao after the timeout, but Fisher sneaked in and stripped the ball, gathered it while sitting between Yao’s legs and quickly called time. Houston double-teamed Fisher after the inbounds play and Fisher split the defenders with a pass to Williams for a layup that put the Jazz up 107-94.
“They were closing in on us and we had to do things to get them off of us,” Williams said. “Fisher came up with some big steals and that’s what he does—he’s a heady guy and knows how to play the game.”
Utah’s C.J. Miles scored 12 points in his first career start. … Brewer made a steal early in the fourth quarter and took it in for a thundering dunk that knocked out the shot clock and put the Jazz ahead 89-72. … Brewer also had a one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass from Williams in the first half. … The Rockets made 10 of 22 3-pointers. … Alston scored all of his points in the second half.