Updated at: 03/20/2013 11:09 PM
(AP) HOUSTON - James Harden had 29 points and the Houston Rockets improved their positioning in the Western Conference playoff race with a 100-93 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
Jeremy Lin added 24 for the Rockets, who currently hold the No. 7 spot in the West. They lead the idle Los Angeles Lakers by 1 1/2 games and are three ahead of the sliding Jazz.
The Rockets led by 19 points after three quarters and withstood a late surge by the Jazz to hold on for the victory.
Utah has lost 10 of its last 13 games. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 27 points and Al Jefferson added 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Harden went 17 for 18 at the line as Houston made 26 free throws, compared to 16 for the Jazz.
Lin had a strong third quarter, scoring 10 points, including seven straight for the Rockets early in the period. The Jazz finally found some offense, scoring 28 points in the quarter, but the Rockets still led by 19 heading into the fourth.
The Jazz then put together a 13-4 run to trim Houston’s lead to 84-74. Alec Burks scored seven points in the spurt.
Hayward helped Utah pull within five with 1 1/2 minutes to go, but Harden made five free throws and Lin added two more to help secure the win.
The Jazz have an NBA-leading 13 double-digit comebacks this season, but weren’t able to overcome their terrible first half in Houston.
The Rockets came out strong after their worst offensive showing of the season in a 108-78 loss to Golden State on Sunday.
Houston led from the start, hitting nine of its first 13 shots. Harden picked up two early fouls and went to the bench with 5:18 left in the first quarter, but the Rockets continued to shoot well without the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer and led 25-17 after one.
The Jazz, meanwhile, got off to another sluggish start on the road, going 8 for 23 from the field and hitting only one 3-pointer in the opening quarter.
It only got uglier for Utah in the second.
Harden finished a fast break with a layup and sank a 3-pointer early in a 17-6 Houston run that extended the lead to 20. Utah had more turnovers (four) than field goals (three) in a 5-minute stretch.
The Rockets mustered only two field goals in the last four minutes of the half and still led 52-33 at the break. Harden had 20 points and the Rockets shot 53 percent (20 of 38) in the first half.
Houston also outrebounded the lifeless Jazz 24-13 in the first two periods and scored 10 points off eight Jazz turnovers.
NOTES: Chandler Parsons added 10 points and eight rebounds for Houston. ... Omer Asik had 12 rebounds for the Rockets.
AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan contributed to this story.
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