SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Houston Rockets came out angry, and took it to the Utah Jazz.
James Harden had 25 points and 12 assists to lead Houston to a 113-92 win over Utah in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series on Friday night.
Eric Gordon added 25 points and Chris Paul had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Rockets. Houston beat Utah in Salt Lake City for the third time this season to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is on Sunday.
“They were focused and determined to do what they wanted to do,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “We just didn’t provide enough resistance in a lot of areas.”
“We’re just not going to force anything,” Harden said. “Whatever they give us, we’re going to take and we’re going to have confidence in our guys and we’re going to make shots.”
Utah’s leading scorer Donovan Mitchell made just 1 of his first 11 shots, and finished with 10 points, his lowest output of the playoffs.
Joe Ingles, who scored 27 points in Game 2, had just 6 points on 2 of 10 shooting.
Royce O’ Neale scored 17 points. Alec Burks chipped in 14 points while Rudy Gobert added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Jazz.
The Jazz played their third straight game without starting point guard Ricky Rubio, who is out with a hamstring injury. They lost starting power forward Derrick Favors to an ankle injury. Favors played just 13 minutes and had just 2 points and 2 rebounds.
Utah never got on track on offense. The Jazz shot poorly over the first three quarters and committed 16 turnovers. Houston scored 19 points off those turnovers.
“They just took us out of our rhythm and we can’t let that happen,” Mitchell said. “They were the aggressor all night and we got to be able to understand they’re gonna be aggressive and we’ve got to be able to counter.”
On the heels of a listless first-half effort in Game 2, Houston avoided enduring another slow start. The Rockets picked apart Utah’s defense practically from the opening tip.
Houston opened the game by scoring baskets on six of its first seven possessions. Harden capped the flurry with his first basket to put the Rockets up 15-5. It only grew worse for the Jazz from there. The Rockets led by as many as 22 in the first quarter, taking a 37-15 lead on back-to-back baskets from Harden and Gerald Green.
Houston made 16 of its 26 shots in the first quarter and totaled 39 points in the period. As effective as the Rockets were on offense, their defense proved equally troublesome for Utah. They forced the Jazz to commit six turnovers before the second quarter and scored nine points off those turnovers.
Utah cut Houston’s lead 49-34 midway through the second quarter after O’ Neale scored three straight baskets to fuel a 9-0 run. Clint Capela ended the run with a dunk and the Rockets proceeded to outscore the Jazz 31-9 over a 10 minute stretch.
The Rockets led by 30 at the half, 70-40, the largest halftime deficit the Jazz have faced in the playoffs.
Houston pushed their lead to 80-43 on a driving layup from Ariza with 8:01 left in the quarter.
Game 4 is Sunday at 6:00 p.m. at Vivint Smart Home Arena.