The Utah Jazz eased through the toughest matchup on a five-game homestand to establish their longest winning streak of the season.
They've still got three games against Eastern Conference opponents remaining on the stay, and a win Saturday night against the skidding Detroit Pistons would give them their first five-game winning streak in nearly two years.
The Jazz (28-36) last won five straight from March 25-April 1, 2013, and Thursday's 109-91 victory over Houston was the only time over a 7-1 stretch that they've allowed over 88 points. Their opponents have averaged 83.5 while shooting 39.7 percent in that span.
Utah is 11-3 since Feb. 7 and has stayed on track recently both with and without Gordon Hayward. The Jazz's leading scorer missed Tuesday's win over New York but returned and scored 29 points against the Rockets.
"(This) definitely carries a little more weight because they're right there in the running in the West," said Hayward, who's averaging 26.0 points in three games on the streak. "It's a big game for us. We look at it with an MVP candidate (James Harden). Guys that are proven. Guys that have won championships. People take that as a challenge."
Aside from Hayward, Utah has been getting other strong individual contributions. Center Rudy Gobert had 19 points and 22 rebounds against the Rockets, including a career-high 12 on the offensive glass. He's been in the starting lineup for 11 straight games, and over the last nine he's averaged 11.7 points and 14.9 rebounds.
"He was really good tonight," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I've been as hard on Rudy lately as anybody. He's great. He's tough-minded. He knows I want him to be better."
Rodney Hood joined him in the starting five and scored a personal-best 20 points two nights after setting a previous career best of 17 against the Knicks. Five of the rookie's seven double-digit scoring efforts have come in the last nine games with a 10.6 average.
The Jazz were a considerably different team when they opened the season series with a 97-96 win in Detroit on Nov. 9. Joining Hayward in that starting five were Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Trey Burke and Derrick Favors. Favors is the only remaining starter, Kanter is now with Oklahoma City, Burks is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery and Burke has lost his starting job to Dante Exum.
Nevertheless, that win improved Utah to 16-2 against the Pistons over 10 seasons. Hayward had 17 points and scored 32 in last season's home game against Detroit - his only other start in the series - but that ended in a 114-94 win for the Pistons.
Detroit (23-42) has dropped nine straight overall and 11 of 12 on the road, including a season-high six in a row after Friday's 118-99 loss at Portland. The overall skid had consisted of seven games decided by single digits prior to the 19-point defeat.
Three-point shooting was again an issue for the Pistons, who were 7 of 25 against Portland and are hitting 26.2 percent on the losing streak. Coach Stan Van Gundy, however, saw progress on the offensive end with his team cracking 45.0 percent overall for the first time in seven games while committing just six turnovers.
"I thought our pace and ball movement were better," Van Gundy said. "There was offensive improvement but we couldn't find a way to stop them at all."
Andre Drummond had 16 points and 17 rebounds for a third consecutive double-double, and none of them have been cheap with averages of 17.3 points and 21.7 rebounds.