Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz

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Coming off of a close loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets head back home to take on the Utah Jazz for the third time this season. The Rockets will be looking to bounce back after losing their heartbreaking two point loss, having now won seven of their last ten. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by none other than James Harden at 29 points, 11.3 assists, and 8 rebounds per game. The Rockets are ranked 2nd in offensive rating, 15th in defensive rating, and 3rd in overall net rating.

The Jazz have hit a bit of a bump in the road, losing four out of their last ten and just squeaking out wins against the Kings and Pelicans. They are right behind the Rockets at 4th in the West, but have significant ground to make up, four games back from the Rockets at 40-24. The Jazz are led in scoring by Gordon Hayward at 22.1 points, in assists by George Hill, at 4.3 assists, and in rebounding by Rudy Gobert, who pulls in 12.8 rebounds per game. The Jazz currently rank 13th in offensive rating, 3rd in defensive rating, and just behind the Rockets at 4th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

During the second half of Monday's game, Ryan Anderson had to leave the action with a tight lower back, and will likely sit out of Wednesday's game. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Sam Dekker at power forward, and Clint Capela at center to start the game, with competing Sixth Man of the Year candidates Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, being the first guys off the bench.

The Jazz continue to be struck by injuries, with George Hill (toe), Derrick Favors (knee) and Joe Johnson (groin) all game time decisions, with Sheldon Mack (ankle) likely out. The first five we will likely see from the Jazz are George Hill at point guard,Rodney Hood at shooting guard, Gordon Hayward at small forward, Derrick Favors at power forward, and Rudy Gobert at center. Expect Dante Exum to replace Hill, and Joe Ingles or Boris Diaw to replace Favors if either are unable to go.

Three Things to Watch

  • Control the Pace – The Jazz and Rockets play at drastically different paces, the Rockets' at 101.9 possessions per game vs the Jazz 93.7. In the Rockets win over the Jazz the game was played at a pace of 95.1 possessions, low but higher than the norm for Utah, while in their loss the Rockets were forced into a crawl, at 91.7 possessions. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to play their game and get out in transition, speeding the Jazz up, as whichever team controls the pace will probably win.

  • Adjustments to be Made – One of the reasons the Rockets struggled so mightily against the Jazz in their last match up was the ability of the Jazz to defend Harden-Capela pick and rolls with only two defenders, Hill and Gobert. Watch to see how the Rockets are able to adjust to the Jazz suffocating pick and roll defense and if they try to run more action away from the ball.

  • Force Turnovers – So far on the season the Jazz rank just 22nd among offenses at avoiding turnovers. If the Rockets are able to play passing lanes and create havoc on defense, it will lead to easy baskets and a sped up game against the 3rd best defense in the league. Watch to see if the Rockets up their aggressive schemes and take risks on defense in order to prop up the teams offense.

Prediction and Tip-Off

I think the Rockets are the better team, but do not match up well against the Jazz. Despite the match up concerns I believe the Rockets will be able to pull out a victory over this banged up version of the Jazz.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Wednesday, March 8th. The game will be televised on ROOTSPORTS with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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