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Rockets blow by Jazz with balanced scoring attack

Eight Rockets reach double figures; big fourth quarter wins it

(Courtesy of Chron.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — Finally, the Rockets had enough.

As much as they had seemed to control the game from the opening tip, they could not pull away. They kept building leads. The Jazz kept rallying back.

Finally, with another lead gone, the Rockets put together another run, and this time, kept on running until they went from down a point in the fourth quarter to a 23-point lead, cruising in for a 113-96 rout of the Jazz on Monday as they watched EnergySolutions Arena empty.

The Rockets did almost everything they wanted, controlling the boards, getting out on the break and finding scoring wherever they looked. Led by Aaron Brooks’ 19 points and nine assists, they had eight players in double figures, with Chase Budinger adding 17 and Luis Scola getting 14 points and 15 rebounds.

The Jazz had taken an 80-79 lead early in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets bench suddenly took over. With Budinger providing the fourth-quarter jolts he has throughout the early second games, scoring 10 points in four minutes, the Rockets surged to their largest lead, 12 points, with 6:20 left.

The Jazz, however, had rallied every time the Rockets had seemed to be pulling away. They outscored the Rockets 23-8 in the final two minutes of the previous quarters, keeping the game tight.

This time, the Rockets would not give them that chance. Shane Battier drained a 3-pointer to take the lead to 15, and Kyle Lowry put in another 3 for a 102-84 lead with five minutes remaining.

The only negative in any of that for the Rockets came with 3:44 remaining when they led by 16 and Jazz fans had begun a stampede for the exits. Budinger turned his left ankle and had to leave the floor. He limped his way back, but did not return to the game.

From the start, the Rockets scored reliably. Brooks began the game with a 3 and then finished a break. Ariza knocked down 3s as he had Saturday in Houston. Hayes punished the Jazz for helping off him on screens, cutting to the rim for layups, scoring 10 points in 11 first-half minutes.

The problem was they did not seem to have any way to slow the Jazz. After days spent talking about their need to gang rebound to keep the Utah muscle off the boards, the Rockets did that. They actually outscored the Jazz, 10-0, in second-chance points in the half. But Utah did not need its usual scoring off the boards because the Jazz were not often missing, especially in the second quarter, when they made 60 percent of their shots.

Still, with two minutes remaining before halftime, Hayes put in a reverse through a Williams foul and the Rockets held a three-point lead. But just as the Jazz ended the first quarter with a 7-2 two-minute run, they surged again, outscoring the Rockets, 8-2, with Williams hitting a pull-up jumper with a tenth of a second left after the Rockets finished the half making 1 of 6 shots.

As much as the Rockets might have been happy to see offensive contributions from Hayes, the expected sources were struggling. Luis Scola made just 1 of his 4 shots. Brooks did not score again after getting seven points in the first 2 ½ minutes of the game.

As soon as the second half began, however, the Rockets seemed determined to address the areas that had been lacking. Batter and Brooks put in layups. Scola hit a jumper and then scored inside. And as if to keep his hands hot, Hayes scored again, this time with a left-handed jump hook. With Scola’s three-point play with five minutes left in the third quarter, the Rockets had rebuilt their seven-point first-half lead.

The Rockets still led by seven with two minutes left in the quarter, but they had been outscored 15-4 in the final two minutes of the previous quarters, scoring in the final seconds of each.

This time, the Rockets seemed to have held off that run when Scola blocked a Williams drive. But after Ariza picked up the rebound, he headed upcourt and was called for charging into Kirilenko, giving the Jazz 3.7 seconds to set up a last shot. Kirilenko hit it at the buzzer, giving the Jazz an 8-4 finish to the quarter, pulling them within three.

Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Wesley Matthews put in a jumper and Mehmet Okur scored inside. Less than three minutes after the Rockets led by seven, they trailed, 80-79.

The Rockets rallied again, took their lead back to seven again, and seemed to be able to score as needed, again. By then, however, the question seemed whether they could score enough to handle it if the Jazz put together a last two-minute run. Again.

This time, however, the Rockets made sure they would never get that chance, blowing them away long before those final minutes.

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