HOUSTON (AP) – Running out of games and healthy bodies, the Utah Jazz turned to their budding star to keep their fading playoff hopes alive in Houston.
Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 29 points to lead the Jazz to a 103-91 win over the Rockets on Wednesday night.
Utah came into the game holding the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference, but only 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff berth. The Jazz had five players sidelined with injuries, so the starters knew they would log heavy minutes in such a pivotal game.
That didn’t faze Hayward, who went 9-for-14 from the field and sank four 3-pointers and delivered six assists in 39 minutes.
“The mentality now is that we’ve just got to find ways to win,” Hayward said. “We’re down to 10 players now, or something like that. We’re just out there fighting, competing and trying to find ways to win.”
“Considering the circumstances,” Hayward said, “this is a pretty big win for us.”
And just as big a loss for Houston, which started the night in the sixth spot in the West. The Rockets had a four-game winning streak snapped, and slipped behind Dallas in the standings.
“We weren’t sharp, we had some turnovers,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “We had opportunities, but could not seem to make that big shot, or that big play that would kind of get us over the hump.”