The Jazz were scorching hot in this one, shooting 53 percent from the floor and hitting on 10 of their 17 three-point tries.
Utah led by as much as 14 in the second quarter before the Rockets rallied to take the lead. However, the lead was short-lived, as the Jazz withstood the storm and took a three-point edge into halftime.
Utah then battled Houston admirably for the entire second half, making big shots when it needed them and stringing together stops on the defensive end.
Houston was playing this game without Chandler Parsons, who sat out with back spasms. The Rockets clearly missed his athleticism on both ends of the floor, particularly defensively as Hayward absolutely burned Kevin McHale's ballclub.
We miss you, Chandler. #Rockets— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) December 3, 2013
Rockets no doubt missed Parsons, esp w Lin out. And Jazz much better now that healthy. But no defensive effort early set up Rockets to fail.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 3, 2013
James Harden scored 37 points for Houston, but it was not enough.
Key Player Grades
James Harden, Shooting Guard
We all know the deal with Harden by now. He is a phenomenal offensive player who is capable of getting to the rim at will, but on the defensive end, it's a pretty different story.
That was on full display in this one.
Harden was tremendous offensively, dropping 37 points off 12-of-22 shooting (10-of-10 from the free-throw line) and willing his way to the basket regardless of who was defending him. He also did a great job of setting up his teammates, handing out eight assists.
However, he was absolutely torched by Hayward on the other side of the floor.
Hayward was simply too quick and shifty for Harden, not only running him through screens, but also using his first step to drive right past Harden to get to the cup.
Check out the video below. Harden simply gets lazy in transition, and the result is an easy layup for Hayward.
Plus, as good as Harden was on the offensive end, he did commit a couple of costly turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Harden ended with a minus-12 plus/minus, somewhat reflecting his porous defense.
Yes, all of those points are nice, but the fact that he gave a lot of that back on the other end of the floor prevents him from getting an A.
Dwight Howard, Center
Dwight Howard wasn't his usual dominant self in this one. On either end of the floor.
The big man actually struggled a bit defensively, as he was taken advantage of in the pick-and-roll. The stout rim-protector did not register a single block and was scarcely at the cup when Utah's guards were driving due to him being pulled away from the paint and not recovering.
Jazz getting open shot after open shot with pick-and-roll vs, Dwight Howard. Like Stockton/Malone used to do vs. Shaq.— Steve Luhm (@sluhm) December 3, 2013
Howard grabbed an uncharacteristically low nine rebounds, too, but that had something to do with the fact that the Jazz were scintillating for most of the night.
Offensively, Howard's impact was minimal. He threw down a couple of alley-oops but couldn't get anything going in the post, forcing a couple of shots that didn't come all that close to falling.
Howard ended with 15 points off 7-of-12 shooting.
Terrence Jones, Power Forward
Terrence Jones had his worst game of the season against the Jazz.
He tallied only two points and two rebounds, shooting 1-of-5 from the floor in 18 minutes. It seemed like he was forcing it on the offensive end, but you know what? He's excused. Jones has been so spectacular this season that a stinker from the youngster should not be criticized too heavily.
Patrick Beverley, Point Guard
Patrick Beverley had his struggles staying with Trey Burke defensively early on, as the young point guard appeared too quick for the normally solid perimeter defending of Beverley on numerous occasions in the first quarter.
Trey Burke has 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists after one quarter. Is that good? #HOUatUTA— Spencer Ryan Hall (@saltcityhoops) December 3, 2013
Still, you had to appreciate Beverley's hustle out there, as he was all over the floor and undoubtedly played his heart out.
Beverley finished with eight points, five rebounds and four dimes in 38 minutes of action, shooting 4-of-10 from the field.
He also collected two steals and did not record a single turnover.
Francisco Garcia, Small Forward
With Parsons missing this game, Francisco Garcia got the start at small forward.
He had a big second quarter, hitting three triples and scoring 11 of his 13 points, but he had trouble defending Hayward when he drew him as an assignment as well.
And Garcia is usually a pretty good defensive player.
What's amazing is Garcia, usually a capable defender, spent most of Q1 on Hayward. Gordon doing good job in transition, moving without ball.— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) December 3, 2013
Still, it's hard to ignore what Garcia did for the Rockets in the second period, making Utah pay with long-distance jumpers and stretching the floor.
He would also grab six rebounds while shooting 5-of-10 from the floor (3-of-7 from deep).
Aaron Brooks, Sixth Man
After an awful outing against the San Antonio Spurs, the streaky Aaron Brooks struggled to find his shot versus Utah, missing his first five field-goal attempts and not getting on the board until the third quarter.
However, he heated up after making his first bucket of the game, knocking down five straight shots between the third and fourth periods. Brooks knew his jumper wasn't going, so he worked his way into the paint and scored some points at the basket.
The backup floor general tallied 13 points off 5-of-12 shooting, only turning the ball over once in 24 minutes.
Omri Casspi stepped up in a big way in Parsons' absence, posting 13 points and six rebounds. He made big plays for Houston throughout and helped get the team back into the game when the Jazz built a 14-point lead in the second quarter.
Casspi played so well and has been such a nice pickup for the Rockets that it may be time to start contemplating an official nickname for the reserve.
Casspi has been terrific again. So what is it. "The Great Casspi?" "Rock the Casspi?" Or "Casspi the friendly ghost?" (Not that last one.)— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 3, 2013
The only other bench players outside of Brooks and Casspi that got minutes were Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer. Brewer did nothing in four minutes of burn, and Asik was merely OK in his 15 minutes, grabbing five rebounds but shooting only 1-of-4 from the floor and taking some truly bad shots inside. He also missed a very easy layup from point-blank range.
All of that said, thanks to Casspi, the Rockets bench earns decent marks.
What's Next for the Rockets?
Well, this is the type of loss upper-echelon teams seem to take at least once or twice a year. You come into a game not taking an opponent seriously, and next thing you know, you're in a dogfight for 48 minutes because you gave an inferior team confidence that they can hang around.
Houston should, at the very least, beat Phoenix and Orlando. The game against Golden State should be a great one.
What's Next for the Jazz?
This was probably the loudest EnergySolutions Arena was all season, as Utah picked up what could end up being its best win of the year when it's all said and done.
Don't look now, but the Jazz have won three of four and look much better with Burke running point.
Trey Burke for the game: 21 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, a steal and zero turnovers...plus/minus of +19— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) December 3, 2013
It should be interesting to see how these youngsters play in these upcoming contests. Will they get blown out like so many expect, or will they fight like they did against the Rockets?