SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — 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.
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.
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 extending into the third quarter. They pushed their lead to 80-43 on a driving layup from Ariza with 8:01 left in the quarter.