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Rockets roar from behind to top Jazz

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's 2013, but the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz are playing like they're in a different decade.

That's good for the Rockets.

Not so good for the Jazz.

Three Houston players scored at least 20 points and the Rockets overcame a 19-point deficit in the first half en route to a runaway 104-93 victory on Saturday night.

Chandler Parsons led the Rockets with 24 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, James Harden scored 23 and Jeremy Lin added 20 points.

Houston won its third consecutive game to open the season despite a comparatively quiet night by Dwight Howard, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.

This is the Rockets' best start since opening the 1993-94 campaign with 15 straight wins.

"We got down so big in the first half, but we didn't give up and we came together as a team at halftime," Parsons said. "I knew this was a game we should win, and we played much better in the second half."

The Jazz burst out to a 56-37 lead with one minute remaining in the first half on two free throws by newcomer Mike Harris.

Utah was outscored by 30 points during the course of the game to fall to 0-3 for the first time since 1979, the first year the franchise played in Salt Lake City after relocating from New Orleans.

"It's tough. We're going to get it," Jazz point guard John Lucas III said. "These are tough losses. We've played against three good teams, and we were right there. We should be 3-0."

Richard Jefferson led six Jazz players in double figures with 18 points. Enes Kanter had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks each scored 15.

The Jazz, however, only managed to put up 37 points in the second half. Not only that, but Utah had just one assist after halftime.

Both teams were playing the second night of a back-to-backs. Houston beat Dallas at home on Friday and the Jazz fell in Phoenix.

"I think we did a better job on the defensive end, stopping them from getting more than one shot," Howard said. "In the first half, they were getting multiple chances at the rim and that happens some nights. We just have to capitalize on what we did tonight."

From the beginning, the Rockets looked nothing like the team that started the season so strongly in home wins over Charlotte and Dallas.

Houston only scored 16 points after missing nine of its 14 shots from the field in the first quarter, falling behind by eight. Utah's offense picked up the pace even more in the second quarter, outscoring the Rockets 32-24 and going ahead by as many as 19 points before settling for a 56-40 halftime lead.

Parsons prevented the Rockets from being lapped in the first half with 20 points on a blistering 7-of-9 shooting from the field before the break. At that point, Howard only had three points after missing four field goals. Uncharacteristically, Houston was also outrebounded 27-12 in the first two quarters.

"We were a step slow in the second half," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "We struggled is the bottom line. We struggled. The second half, we came out. We got it at halftime. We got a little organized and talked a little more about the effort, and how we had to play."

Houston ended up winning the battle of the boards 40-39.

The late-arriving Rockets were back to their usual selves out of the locker room, overpowering the Jazz with a 33-17 third-quarter advantage to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.

Howard had 10 points and Harden scored nine in the third quarter.

Francisco Garcia chipped in with three 3-pointers in the Rockets' second-half spurt. He finished with 12 points.

The Jazz are left wondering when that first win will come since the organization decided to overhaul the team and let its leading scorers, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, go elsewhere this past offseason with an eye to the future.

"We're a young group. We should have more energy," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We'll go back to work, man. It's frustrating learning lessons over and over and over again, but that's where we are. We'll keep working and hopefully we'll continue to get better."

NOTES: The Jazz have two former Rockets -- Lucas and forward Mike Harris. Lucas started his NBA career in Houston in 2005, while Harris had three short stints between 2008-11. They were also teammates in China before returning to the NBA. ... It was weird for Harris to become an instant fan favorite in Utah earlier this week after scoring 13 points in the Jazz's home opener. He said Utah was a "hostile crowd" when with Houston in the playoffs. "I was like, 'Man, I really hate playing in Utah.' To turn around (Wednesday) and be on the opposite side of that with those fans and that atmosphere, it just sets for a tremendous season." ... Both teams have a player from Turkey -- Kanter (Utah) and Omer Asik (Houston). ... Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke, the 2013 NCAA player of the year, is expected to be re-evaluated on Nov. 11, four weeks after having surgery on his fractured right index finger. ... Utah has five players sidelined with injuries to start the season -- Burke, Marvin Williams (Achilles), Brandon Rush (knee), Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff) and Andris Biedrins (ankle).

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