SALT LAKE CITY — An upper respiratory infection limited Rockets’ guard James Harden to just 17 minutes Monday, but before the game it was clear he had the attention of the Utah Jazz.
Following the team’s morning shootaround, Utah players mentioned Harden’s name often.
“He’s got a lot of moves, he’s a dual threat because he gets to (the basket) pretty easily, but he’s also got a little step-back game to shoot his jumpshots,” Jazz guard Gordon Hayward said. “Then you add a pick-and-roll into it and its even more difficult. He’s a good player.”
Harden played the first half, scoring just six points, before leaving the game at halftime.
Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, was traded from Oklahoma City to Houston before the start of the season.
He recently signed an $80 million contract extension with the Rockets and came into Monday’s game averaging 26 points and nearly five assists per game.
Once the third option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in OKC, Harden now is the main man in Houston.
“He’s a very talented player and now he’s got the green light,” Jazz center Al Jefferson said.
Jazz 102, Rockets 91
• BEST PLAY: As the Jazz go on a 15-2 run to start the second quarter, Jamaal Tinsley gets a rebound and immediately fires a pass ahead to DeMarre Carroll, who tosses a 40-foot lob pass to Enes Kanter. Kanter throws down a fierce dunk. Down 40-26 at the time, Houston calls a quick timeout.
• BEST LINE: Paul Millsap shot 4-of-9 from the field, scored 10 points and had eight rebounds plus two blocked shots.
• KEY STAT: On a night the Jazz shot only 40 percent from the field they notched 30 assists on 37 made baskets.
• MILESTONE: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the night Jazz Hall of Famer Karl Malone went past the 15,000-point mark for his career. The Mailman scored 34 points in a Jazz 97-95 road victory at Indiana. Malone scored 36,928 over the course of his career, second-most all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387.
• INJURY REPORT: Earl Watson (right knee rehab) continues to sit for the Jazz. Houston’s Carlos Delfino (groin) did note play.
• HELPING OUT: Jazz officials today host what they’re calling “We Care – We Share,” a Thanksgiving dinner celebration for Salt Lake’s homeless and low-income population.
The dinner will take place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the main concourse at EnergySolutions Arena. Members of the Larry H. Miller family, team personnel and Jazz front office staff will be on hand to serve.
According to a press release from the Jazz, the event is produced in conjunction with Salt Lake City Mission, EnergySolutions Arena and Utah Food Services. More than 3,600 meals were provided to individuals in need last year and an even larger crowd is anticipated at this year’s event.
• ETC.: Former coach Jerry Sloan was in the audience again Monday. He also attended Utah’s opening-night game vs. Dallas. … Rockets power forward Patrick Patterson scored 19 points and only one rebound and no assists. … Jazz guard Randy Foye took seven 3-point shots. He made four of them.
• UP NEXT: The Jazz will play again on Friday when they play host to the Sacramento Kings.