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Old 01-10-2015, 11:11 PM   #1
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Rockets win 3rd straight, 97-82 over Jazz; Harden has 30

James Harden had 30 points and five assists to lead the Houston Rockets to their third straight victory, 97-82 over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Harden made four of Houston's 13 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter, to maintain a large lead built in a miserable third quarter for Utah. Harden, the league's leader in points per game, had his 15th 30-point game.

Houston used 16 steals and forced 31 turnovers to overcome poor first-half shooting.

Trey Burke and Enes Kanter both scored 16 for Utah, and Derrick Favors had 15 points in just 17 minutes.

Gordon Hayward, who leads the Jazz with 19.1 points per game, was held to just nine, as he was blanketed by Harden for much of his 30 minutes on the floor.

The Rockets struggled to find their shots early. Houston ranks first in the league in 3-pointers made, but missed 10 of their first 13 attempts. In the third quarter, however, Houston heated up, hitting four straight 3s in one stretch and making 5 of 8 to pull away.

After winning five of their last seven games to close out the last two weeks of 2014, the Jazz have lost four of six to start 2015.

After the game was tied at 23 to end the first quarter, Houston's defense clamped down in the second, forcing 10 of Utah's 18 first-half turnovers in the frame. The struggling Jazz hit their season high in turnovers midway through the third and finished with 31.

The Jazz scored a season-low 14 points in the second quarter, and the Rockets held a 46-37 lead at the half.

Behind Harden's performance, Donatas Motiejunas had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Patrick Beverley each had 10 points. Dwight Howard was held to just eight points and eight boards in 36 minutes.

The Rockets improved to 20-2 when leading at halftime. Houston struggled in second halves last season, but a newfound focus on defense and consistent shooting has helped the Rockets become one of the best teams in the league after intermission.



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