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Rockets 124, Jazz 116

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz levied blows at one another down the stretch of the third quarter at such a frenzied pace that there was no reason to believe a similar conclusion in the fourth period wasn't on tap.

So, even after the Rockets extended to a double-digit lead on the strength of their bench, the Jazz clawed back.

The Jazz responded to the Rockets' fourth-quarter run with one of their own before the Rockets' starters returned and delivered the knockout blow in a riveting 124-116 victory on Saturday night at Toyota Center.

For a third consecutive home game, all five Rockets starters reached double figures in points, with guard Jeremy Lin serving as the closer with six points during a span in which the resilient Jazz (9-9) could not muster a response.

After using a 9-0 run to cut the Rockets' 105-95 lead to a single point, Utah managed just five baskets to close the contest.

While bench production played a key role in helping the Rockets (8-8) build that 10-point lead, Lin (19 points), James Harden (18 points) and Chandler Parsons (19 points) drilled critical jumpers to cap the win. Rockets center Omer Asik offered the finishing blow with his put-back basket through a foul, completing the three-point play for a 121-113 lead with 1:20 left. Asik had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards.

Utah shot 51.1 percent and received a game-high 21 points from Gordon Hayward off the bench. Al Jefferson and Randy Foye tallied 20 apiece.

Patrick Patterson rounded out the Rockets' double-digit scoring group with 20 points, including a 3-pointer that gave Houston the lead for good at 112-109 with 4:04 remaining.

The Jazz pounded the Rockets in the paint early, with Jefferson utilizing his effectiveness around the rim and facing the basket as the foundation for an early spurt. Houston helped out with four turnovers in the opening four minutes, forcing Rockets interim coach Kelvin Sampson to call a momentum-stalling timeout with Utah leading 11-4.

The Rockets found their flow immediately thereafter, first with forward Patterson continuing his torrid play of late, and then via reserve swingman Carlos Delfino offering an impact in his first action after a seven-game hiatus because of a groin injury. Once down nine, the Rockets closed the first quarter on an 18-9 run to pull even at 28-apiece.

The Rockets ran the Jazz into a hole by parlaying their exceptional shooting and transition aggression into an expanding lead. The frontcourt of Patterson, Asik and Parsons combined for 34 first-half points and required just 19 shots to set that clip. Whereas the Rockets committed seven turnovers by the midpoint of the first quarter, they were guilty of just two the remainder of the first half.

By the break, they led 58-49, with their stellar shooting (59 percent) negating their lack of offensive rebounding. Utah finished plus-10 in shot attempts but struggled to keep up with the running Rockets.

NOTES: The Rockets are 23-2 at home in December since the 2008-09 season. ... Delfino, second among reserves in scoring at 8.3 points per game, returned to action after missing seven games with a groin injury. ... Jazz centers Derrick ' (11th at 18.5 percent) and Jefferson (13th at 18.3 percent) are one of two sets of teammates ranked in the top 15 in the NBA in total rebound percentage. The Nets' Reggie Evans

(25.3 percent) and Kris Humphries (19.3 percent) are second and seventh, respectively.
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