By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange



HOUSTON -- When the Jazz darted from the gate with an impressive display of shot-making, that proficiency served to deliver Utah an early advantage while also bolstering its confidence to facilitate pristine execution down the stretch.

Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward shared team-high scoring honors as the Utah Jazz clinched the season series with the Houston Rockets via a 115-108 victory on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.

The Jazz (41-24) closed to within three games of the Rockets (44-21) for the third seed in the Western Conference while also securing the tie-breaker. Gobert posted a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Hayward delivered several clutch jumpers en route to his 23 points. Gobert and Hayward combined to hit 15 of 21 shots for Utah, which stretched its winning streak to four games.

Utah answered every Rockets run in the fourth, responding with two Gobert free throws, a Gobert tip-in, a Joe Johnson 3-pointer and a Gobert layup on the four occasions Houston closed to within four points inside the final three minutes.

"Any time you're on the road and you hit shots early, it's a good feeling for the person that hits it, for the team, because it's hard to come back when you get down early on the road," Hayward said. "To stay with the home team, maybe have a little bit of a lead, that's a good feeling. Tonight was an example of that."

The Rockets were undone by poor shooting, finishing 8 of 32 on 3-pointers. After cutting a 13-point deficit to three points in the third quarter, the Rockets closed the period shooting 1 of 9 on 3s and 5 of 13 from the free-throw line.

Utah, conversely, shot 53.9 percent overall while hitting 12 of 31 3-pointers.

Guard James Harden paced the Rockets with 35 points, but he missed all eight of his 3-point attempts. He added six assists, his first game with fewer than seven this season. Center Clint Capela added his third double-double (19 points, 12 boards) in four games while Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell scored 12 points apiece off the bench. Williams shot 2 of 10, including 0 for 5 inside the arc.

"They do a good job of covering our guys, so (it was) a little bit of them, a little bit of us," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said of the errant shooting. "But, at the same time, we had enough points to win. I thought we started off (poorly) defensively -- we just in the first quarter gave up a lot."

Blistering shooting carried Utah to a 30-22 lead entering the second quarter as the Jazz hit 11 of 20 field goals, 4 of 10 from deep. That early 3-point volume staggered the Rockets, who tried to counter with 12 paint points yet couldn't quite keep pace. Gobert was instrumental, converting all three of his attempts while serving as an offensive fulcrum with his stellar pick-setting.

While Houston responded with 16-of-17 shooting from the charity stripe in the second quarter, its defense remained vulnerable. Gobert and Hood, who scored 10 of his 19 points in the first half, combined for 22 points by the intermission while the Jazz bench chipped in 21 points to supplement a lineup missing two starters. Alec Burks paced the reserves with 10 points.

"We've been in these situations a lot so there are different guys each night," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of his bench. "It's easy to say, 'Stay ready,' and we say that stuff as coaches. But it's hard to do. For those guys to literally be ready and contribute like they did, it was pretty good."

NOTES: Jazz F Derrick Favors (knee) and G George Hill (toe) sat out. Hill missed a second consecutive game. Jazz G/F Joe Johnson started in place of Favors and scored 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. ... Rockets F Ryan Anderson (back spasms) was unavailable, missing his first action since a late-January bout with a stomach virus. Anderson is questionable to make the trip to Chicago for Friday's game against the Bulls. ... Houston fell to 1-7 when its opponent makes more 3-pointers.