Gordon Hayward scored 28 points and the Jazz made the crucial plays in the extra period for a 117-114 victory over the Rockets.
The win moved the Jazz into eighth place in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the Rockets. The first tiebreaker for a two-way tie is head-to-head winning percentage. Houston (28-29) fell to 2-1 against Utah (28-28) this season.
"Definitely in overtime it had that playoff atmosphere, and that's when we played better," Jazz forward Trevor Booker said. "We don't talk about it as a team, but I'm sure everybody individually knows what we're fighting for and who we're fighting against."
It was Harden's eighth 40-point game, tying him with Stephen Curry.
"It is not about where we are in the standings, it is about us continuing to fight and play the right way," Harden said. "We made some tough shots. Rodney Hood made a couple of tough 3s off of the dribble. It is a tough loss for us but we played well and competed at a high level.
"It was definitely intense. It was a great atmosphere. It was a tough one and we have to bounce back on Thursday."
Hood hit a 3 over Dwight Howard with 51.9 seconds left in OT to give the Jazz a 115-112 lead. Harden followed with a layup, but Derrick Favors' putback pushed the margin to 117-114 with 11.8 seconds to go.
Favors finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Hayward scored 28 points on just seven shots from the field, making six. He was 3 of 4 on 3-pointers and 13 for 15 at the foul line.
"To have multiple guys be able to make plays was really important," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It wasn't pretty all the time offensively, but when we didn't turn it over, we got some good things to happen."
The Rockets rallied in the third quarter behind a spectacular effort from Harden, but Trey Burke hit three 3-pointers in the fourth as the Jazz regained the lead.
Utah jumped out to a 34-23 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a 15-2 run. The highlight of the half came on Hood's crossover, step-back 3-pointer over Howard to beat the buzzer.
Turnovers, however, kept the Rockets in it. Utah committed 16 turnovers in the first half that Houston converted into 23 points.
"It is huge. This was a tiebreaker opportunity for us," Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "We have them one more time. Whenever you play a team that you are matched up with, those are important games.
"But, our focus is on us right now. We are not worried about the other teams. We are not worried about the playoff race."
Rockets: Houston is 24-22 since Bickerstaff took over as coach. ... Trevor Ariza scored 18 points but the Rockets were minus-12 when he was on the court. ... Patrick Beverley finished with 14 points. ... The Rockets have played six overtime games this season.
Jazz: Utah rallied in the fourth quarter with the lineup of Burke, Hood, Favors, Chris Johnson and Booker. ... The Jazz were outscored 32-23 in the third quarter. ... Hood had a career-high five steals. ... The Jazz have played eight overtime games this season.
THAT WAS QUICK
The Jazz traded for Shelvin Mack on Thursday and he moved into the starting lineup Tuesday after playing just one game. Raul Neto was the first point guard off the bench after starting 53 games. Burke checked in with 11:25 left in the second quarter. Mack scored a season-high 17 points. Snyder indicated before the game that he'd like to stick to one starting lineup down the stretch. "We're not at a point now where we need to be making changes all the time and trying to find combinations and things like that," Snyder said. "We've done that."
The Rockets inserted Josh Smith into the starting lineup along with Ariza, Beverley, Howard and Harden for the second consecutive game. It's just the second time Houston has used that starting lineup as Bickerstaff has decided to go big. "It really had nothing to do with matchups," Bickerstaff said. "It had more to do with skill set. ... We figured we needed a guy in that first group who can be a facilitator. One of Josh's greatest strengths is moving the ball. He complements Dwight and James really, really well."
"A year ago we would have definitely lost this game in the fourth quarter," Booker said. "But we're growing as a unit. We just keep getting better and we're learning from our mistakes."
The Rockets visit the Trail Blazers on Thursday.
The Jazz host the Spurs on Thursday.
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