HOUSTON — With less than a minute left in regulation Wednesday night, Dante Exum delivered a driving dunk to give the Utah Jazz a nine-point edge.
Sensing the team was in control, injured veteran Thabo Sefolosha enjoyed a friendly exchange with a fan sitting courtside.
Even after blowing a 19-point lead, the Jazz would go on to steal Game 2 at the Toyota Center, 116-108, on Sefolosha’s 34th birthday to even the Western Conference semifinals 1-1.
Joe Ingles was hot from the start, logging a new career-high 27 points including seven 3-pointers. Ingles went 10 for 13 from the field as the Jazz outscored the Rockets 30-23 in the fourth.
“Obviously we wanted to be aggressive but like I said a million times within the flow of our offense and our team,” Ingles said. “Lucky enough to get a couple to fall early.”
Ingles is averaging 15.9 points while shooting 50.9 percent from 3-land in this year’s postseason. Utah’s 15 3-pointers also set a franchise playoff high as the team logged its highest point total of the playoffs.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Ingles was prepared to step up from the opening tip as the team needed a big game from him.
“I was giving Joe a hard time,” Snyder said. “He started last year as probably our fifth wing and he wasn’t that for long, but I mentioned it before but every time Joe is needed to step up his game, he’s been able to do that or a least he’s committed to that and I think over time he’s improved.“
Utah’s bench also flourished, especially at the start of the second quarter, with Jae Crowder, Alec Burks and Exum logging solid minutes. The Jazz bench outscored the Rockets bench 41-22.