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Rockets hold off Jazz

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 Houston's 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 scored in double figures, with guard Jeremy Lin serving as the closer with six points during a span in which the resilient Jazz (9-9) finally succumbed.

"We're very unselfish. We're moving the ball great right now," Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. "If you look at the stat sheet, it was so balanced and I think that's how we've got to go because every night a different player can beat you."

After using a 9-0 run to cut the Rockets' 105-95 lead to a single point with 5:50 to play, Utah managed just five baskets to close the contest.

While bench production helped the Rockets (8-8) build that 10-point lead, Lin, Parsons (19 points each) and James Harden (18 points) drilled critical jumpers to cap the win. Rockets center Omer Asik silenced the Jazz once and for all with his layup through a Randy Foye foul, completing the three-point play for a 121-113 lead with 1:20 left.

Asik contributed his fourth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Patrick Patterson rounded out the Rockets' double-digit scoring starters with a team-high 20 points, including a 3-pointer that gave Houston the lead for good at 112-109 with 4:04 remaining.

"We were sharing the ball," Patterson said. "Each and every one of us was looking to make that extra pass. Teammates were knocking the shots down, and offense-wise, it was a good night."

Utah shot 51.1 percent and received a game-high 21 points from reserve swingman Gordon Hayward. Al Jefferson and Foye chipped in 20 apiece. The Jazz scored on eight consecutive possessions to close the third, with Hayward, Jefferson and Foye responsible for 13 points during that span.

"Yeah, I definitely think we had an opportunity to win the game," Hayward said. "We were in it and I don't think nobody is satisfied with that and not being able to win on the road."

Houston found its flow immediately after the Jazz opened with an 11-4 burst, first with 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 deficit by parlaying their exceptional shooting and transition aggression. En route to 55.4 percent shooting and a 22-8 edge in fast-break points, the Rockets surged despite going most of the front half without an offensive rebound. They committed seven turnovers by the midpoint of the first quarter but just two the remainder of the first half, another asset of their red-hot offense.

By the break, the Rockets led 58-49. The Jazz finished plus-10 in field-goal attempts but struggled to keep pace with the running Rockets.

"They played well," Foye said. "You got to give them a lot of credit. They shot the ball well from the 3-point line. They shared the ball."

NOTES: The Rockets are 23-2 at home in December since the 2008-09 season. ... Jazz centers Derrick Favors (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. ... The Rockets shot a season-best 55.4 percent (46-for-83) in extending their home win streak to five games.
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