Returning from a three game losing streak, Houston took out their frustration in cathartic fashion against the Jazz.
Terrence Jones had a stand-out performance, leading all final scores with 30 points in a crushing performance filled with three pointers, post play, and impressive amounts of touch. As a squad, Houston shot a ridiculous 58% on the evening, leading the points-in-the-paint battle 58-34. Houston also hit 13 three pointers at an equally ridiculous 52% and shot 26 foul shots. They executed the 'Morey imperative' to near perfection with shots at the rim, free throws, and three pointers in a high tempo mold. Their 30-9 fastbreak scoring lead exemplified what has been obvious most of the year: Houston is, and will be, just fine; sit back and just enjoy the ride.
Omer Asik had an inspiring performance in his first start of the season without Dwight who was out with an ankle injury. It was a fitting replacement; Asik got his first start against his Turkish national teammate Enes Kanter, who normally starts ahead of him in games with the national team in international play.
Jeremy Lin finished with what I thought was his best performance in several months, ending with 17 points, 9 assists, and 4 assists, and 2 blocked shots. Lin turned the ball over 5 times, but played wonderfully off of the bench. Beverley had an equally impressive outing, closing the contest with 19 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. Pat was pesky on defense and limited Trey Burke to just 10 points on 13 shots and 2 turnovers.
This was a very fun game to watch; from the very start Houston came out tough on defense and scorching hot on offense. After the first half, Houston had everything in control but Terrence Jones stomped out the embers in the third quarter; He exploded for 13 points in the quarter and Jordan Hamilton filled in garbage time with 12 fourth quarter points.
Overall, good win, fun times - now just keep it up.
Onto the details..
Jones and Harden led off the first quarter with 2 three pointers on their way to an 8-2 lead to start the game. Utah stayed with it early though, climbing back briefly behind a thunderous Gordon Hayward slam in transition. The Jazz fought back to a 14-14 tie before Harden and company started dropping shots. Omer Asik looked great in the first quarter in his first start of the season, sucking up 5 rebounds in the first quarter and set several play-making screens and protected the rim much like the Asik of old.
Houston maintained a 10 point lead in the second quarter before Beverley nailed a three pointer to give Houston its largest lead to that point. Jeremy Lin had one of his best starts of the season; through a quarter and a half he had 8 points and 3 assists to go along with a couple of boards as well. Beverley also helped extend the lead after a pesky steal and score on an Jazz in bound pass as well as several three pointers. Patrick led the team in scoring midway through the second quarter with 10 in addition to snatching 6 rebounds. He was diving for balls, contesting shots, and generally badgering green Jazz jersey he saw.
Terrence Jones had a terrific start after his previous three games during the losing streak have been particularly were disappointing to say the least. We need this guy to show up in a big way once the playoffs start; if his shooting ability continues to be somewhat reliable during the playoffs and he carries hover his aggressiveness towards the rim, we will be in wonderful shape.
By the end of the first half, Houston was already running away with this one, maintaining a 19 point lead: 60-41. Harden led all scores with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting but the scoring was evenly distributed over half of their field goals were from assists and three other players were in double figures (Lin had 8).
For the Jazz, Derrick Favors carried the first quarter and Richard Jefferson handled the second in terms of scoring but neither was too much of a consistent threat offensively. As a team, Utah shot just 39% in the first quarter and shot even worse in the second quarter, finishing at 36%. In stark contrast, Houston shot 52% in the first and escalated it to a gaudy 59% in the second. Utah couldn't score more than 21 points in either quarter.
Terrence Jones started the second half like he started the first, with a net snapping three pointer followed by a second straight three pointer and a couple of free throws to extend his scoring total to 18 points in the first few minutes. Not stopping there, he started taking the ball to the rim and getting to the free throw line, causing his point total to balloon to 24. TJ took over the first half of the third quarter in ways that we normally see Harden take over quarters in the second half.
The Rockets maintained a 20 point lead throughout a majority of the quarter and really was getting out on the break and spreading the ball around. Everyone was getting into the mix. Jeremy broke into double figures after his poor performance against the Heat and was helping the Rockets distribute the ball, push it up the floor, and pull off an impressive chase down block on the unsuspecting Trey Burke on a fastbreak. Parsons played the role of point guard tonight though, only scoring 6 points going into the fourth quarter but racking up 7 assists and only 1 turnover.
Houston dominated the glass as well, sustaining a pretty steady 10+ advantage on the boards throughout the game. This was a refreshing game to see from both Asik, Beverley, and Motiejunas on the glass amid the rebounding power vacuum created as a result of Howard's absence. Donatas also racked up 3 charges, adding to what is normally a lakcluster defensive effort from the big Lithuanian.
The rest of the game was filled with one play after another that remineded me of why I love watching this team so much. Everyone was playing hard on defense, rebounding the ball, getting said ball into transition, and finishing at the rim. Houston ran away with it and before long it was garbage time and the victory was sealed and, indeed, added to even as the clock ran down. The result was a total beating that was news to a Rockets fan's ears; any Jazz loss is cause for celebration.
We all expected something good to happen in our homecoming game after a 3 game losing streak that J.B. Bickerstaff described at halftime as leaving a "bad taste in [their] mouths." Their execution was on point and the best part of it all is that Dwight Howard didn't have to play a single minute and Harden finished with a quiet 15 points and 5 assists. Parsons also only scored 6 points, making this victory a product of our best players making others better. Dwight was the biggest cheerleader on the sideline, Harden gave up the ball to teammates, and Lin/Parsons combined for 16 of Houston's 31 assists.
Heading into the final stretch of the season, we are going to need proficient performances like this from players like Beverley, Jones, Lin, Asik, and Donatas (7 points, 11 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and took 3 charges). This game gave me confidence in what that can look like when they can all put it together at once.
Houston's turnovers (19) were still a bit of a problem per usual, but they had so much going on tonight, and the Jazz so little, that it ultimately didn't affect the outcome in any demonstrable way. Utah ended with an equivalent amount of TOs though.
As always, however, now it is history and we march on to the next one in our fight for home court and a favorable match-up in the first round of the playoffs.