The Utah Jazz are in Space City tonight for a re-match against the Houston Rockets. Last time they played, Houston’s small ball was too much for the Jazz to overcome.
The Utah Jazz were anxious to get started with their tougher slate of opponents about three weeks ago. They were coming off a stretch where they won 18 of 20 games, with the only win against a squad above .500 coming against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Seven games and five losses later, they have an opportunity to prove they belong with the top dogs of the Western Conference. A big criticism of the Jazz by folks outside of Utah is their inability to guard small lineups.
The Houston Rockets this season are the epitome of a team that goes small. They’ve doubled down on the formula the Golden State Warriors called “the death lineup”, when they would close games with five play makers on the floor at every position.
The Rockets have been the kryptonite of the Jazz for the past two years in the playoffs, but that was supposed to change this season when Dennis Lindsey added “snipers” to the Jazz roster last summer.
It will be a tough task to stop James Harden. You can count on him dropping 35 or more points, and the key to this game will be forcing his teammates to take over more possessions.
Getting Russell Westbrook to go into hero mode could be a very good or a very bad thing for the Jazz. If Russ’ shots are falling than he’s tough to stop, but when he’s overthinking he cripples his team on both sides of the floor.
It all may come down to three point shooting. Cliche phrases such as “you live by the three, you die by the three”, and “it’s a make or miss league” are especially true for teams like the Rockets and Jazz.
If Utah gets their three point shot falling, their offense will be able to keep up with the Rockets. If Houston’s outside shots fail to fall through the nylon, then suddenly their five-out offense becomes ineffective.
Tip-off: 7:00 PM on February 9th from Toyota Center in Houston, TX.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The Zone Sports Network (97.5 FM and 1280 AM Salt Lake City)
Projected Starting Lineups
Utah Jazz Position Portland Trail-Blazers
Donovan Mitchell SG James Harden
Mike Conley PG Russell Westbrook
Eric Gordon is listed as questionable to play tonight with a leg injury. He did not play in last night’s game against the Phoenix Suns. Newly acquired Rocket Bruno Caboclo is also sidelined for the next week with a bone bruise in his knee.
Ed Davis is listed as questionable for his availability tonight. He’s been dealing with back spasms recently.
The Action Network has the Rockets listed as four point favorites to win this one, and it’s easy to see why.
The Jazz struggled to win a home game against the Portland Trail-Blazers, who were far from full strength. Previous to that, they Jazz dropped five straight including an embarrassing loss to the Rockets that didn’t have Harden or Westbrook.
Despite the fact that they have the disadvantage of being on the second end of a back to back, I’m picking the Rockets to win. This will put them ahead of the Jazz in the standings, at least for now. Jazz 109, Rockets 116.
For some great live game discussion, you can use the #UTAatHOU hashtag on Twitter or comment on the thread below. Go Jazz!