Rockets end skid with 124-86 blowout over Jazz
HOUSTON (AP) Houston coach Kevin McHale worried that his team might come out flat Monday night against the struggling Utah Jazz after dropping a close game to the Heat in Miami a day before.
His fears were completely unwarranted.
Terrence Jones scored 30 points and the Rockets ended a three-game skid with their most lopsided victory of the season, a 124-86 win over the Jazz.
''There's got to be an emphasis on how we play and improving,'' McHale said. ''It's really important that we keep improving and getting better.''
Dwight Howard was out with an ankle strain, leaving the Rockets without him for the first time this season. But they still had no problem handling the Jazz, who have lost five in a row and have one of the worst records in the Western Conference.
Houston was up by 19 at halftime and 13 points by Jones in the third quarter helped push the lead to 92-69 entering the fourth.
''We just wanted to be aggressive,'' Jones said. ''Coming off three tough ones we wanted to come out and have a lot of energy and just get back to playing ... the way we had been playing.''
The big lead allowed an overworked James Harden, who had played more than 43 minutes in three of the previous four games, to rest a bit as he watched the fourth quarter from the bench. Harden finished with 15 points.
Houston used a 15-0 run starting midway through the fourth quarter with all their starters on the bench except for Jones to push the already lopsided game to a 40-point advantage. Jordan Hamilton had seven points for Houston during the run.
Derrick Favors had 15 points for the Jazz a night after scoring a career-high 28.
''This is a lesson for the young guys,'' Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. ''They have to learn to get ready every night. Tonight, we just couldn't get it going. It was like we were running in mud and couldn't get ourselves out of it.''
It was unclear when Howard was injured, but the team announced the mild strain to his left ankle about 40 minutes before tipoff. He had been the only Rockets player to start every game this season before missing Monday's game. Omer Asik started in his place and finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Houston got back on track after an 0-3 road trip for its first three-game losing streak of the season. The losses came at Oklahoma City, Chicago and Miami and followed a great stretch in which the Rockets won five straight over some of the Eastern Conference's best teams.
''We've been playing well and we're confident in each and how we've been playing,'' Harden said. ''The last three games have been a slip up, but overall I think we're in a good place.''
Patrick Beverley scored 19 and Jeremy Lin had 17 for the Rockets, who are second to San Antonio in the Southwest Division.
Jones opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and scored the first nine points of the second half for Houston to extend the lead to 69-47. Asik had a dunk for the Rockets before Jones added four more points to leave Houston up 75-51.
Favors made two free throws for the Jazz midway through the quarter before Beverley scored four points for the Rockets to stretch the lead to 26 points.
Utah finally found some offense after, scoring eight straight points with the first six from Alec Burks to cut the lead to 79-61.
The Jazz cut the lead to seven on a 3-pointer by Richard Jefferson with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the first half. Houston used a 13-2 spurt to stretch the lead to 47-29 about 3 1/2 minutes later. Lin and Beverley scored all of Houston's points in that span with Beverley scoring eight and Lin adding the rest.
Utah went almost four minutes without scoring before a layup by Favors with four minutes left in the second quarter.
Houston led 60-41 at halftime.
The Rockets were up by two points with three minutes left in the first quarter before using an 8-2 run to close out the period and extend their lead to 28-20.
NOTES: Houston F Omri Casspi missed the game with the flu. ... The Jazz won 109-103 in the last meeting with Houston this season. ... Houston's Francisco Garcia and Utah's John Lucas got into a scuffle as the game ended and pushed each other before they were separated and both led off the court. ... The Rockets shot 58.2 percent and had 30 fast-break points, which were both season highs.