Game Day: Houston Rockets versus Utah Jazz
Funny how one week can change the dynamics of where a team stands. Christmas Day the Houston Rockets put out their best defensive effort winning a game over the Spurs; a game they were predicted to lose. It was thought after this win and coupled with the rapidly improving offense and slowing improving defense the Rockets were headed back up the ladder.
Following the Spurs win the Rockets then suffered 4 consecutive losses featuring two games (Hawks/Spurs) who set this seasons’ record for most points scored against the Rockets. Worse in each of these losses to the Pelicans, Hawks, Warriors and Spurs the Rockets either had a double digit lead or were holding their own only to succumb to their opponent via an extended lapse in focus, energy and effort. So, instead of arriving at the home and home Utah series with a burgeoning confidence the Rockets limp into Utah not riddled with injuries like the Jazz, rather with a sagging confidence and increased questions regarding the teams’ chemistry.
As they arrive in Utah the two teams are currently ranked seventh (Utah at 15-17) and eighth (Rockets at 16-19) and the Jazz a half game up. Suffice to say anything less than winning both games will only serve to increase the spotlight focus already on the team.
Venue: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Game Time: 9:00 PM EST – 8:00 PM CT
TV: NBA League Pass and ROOT
Radio: 790 AM and KZNS
- Rudy Gobert – knee, out until at least January 11th
- Derrick Favors – back, game time decision
- Alec Burks – ankle, out until February 15th (at least)
- Dante Exum– knee, out for the season
- Marcus Thornton – personal, game time decision (his fiancee is giving birth)
- Donatas Motiejunas – back, out until January 7th at a minimum
- Sam Dekker had bad surgery is out 3 months
Rockets guard Marcus Thornton is with his fiance who went into labor yesterday. He will not be with team in San Antonio tonight.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 2, 2016
With both teams missing valuable core players it’s difficult to isolate any one player or match-up as being the most critical.
Rather, it’s important to note the Rockets are beyond desperate for a win and will be facing this team in a home and home situation this week.
Houston need to win both games if they intend on getting back on track and now they’ll need to do so without the services of DeMo and Thornton at least in the first game in Utah.
Keys to Winning:
- Get off to a strong start: Don’t let the Jazz bury you early or let the thin air take a toll, i.e. stay within range.
- Ball and Player Movement Is Critical: Looking at the stat comparison it’s noteworthy the Jazz are among the league best at limiting scoring in the paint and overall field goal percentage. Obviously without Gobert those numbers are more flexible.
- Take advantage of the intangibles: One of the key areas the Rockets have an edge in is forcing turnovers and doing intangibles, therefore they need to force the Jazz’ hand in that regard.
- Win the rebound battle: The Rockets have the edge on the defensive boards and the Jazz have the edge offensively. That said, without Gobert the Jazz aren’t as difficult to keep off the boards and stop getting second chances.
- Just win! The Rockets need to put the four straight losses behind them and turn things around quickly as their schedule isn’t getting any easier.
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The odds makers have the Rockets favored by 2.5 points with an over – under of 199.5 and early action is leaning toward the Jazz.
While the Rockets have made a habit of winning when they should lose and losing when they should win, that habit came to an abrupt halt last week as they lost 4 games in a row. Their last loss to the Spurs was particularly disheartening as the Rockets allowed the Spurs to literally dissect them in the second half like a science project. San Antonio exposed all the Rockets weaknesses on defense and highlighted the fact Houston has a tendency to just stop playing.
Prediction: Not that I’m a particularly superstitious person, but the Rockets have made a routine habit this season of doing precisely the opposite of what I (and most analysts) assume they will. Since it’s imperative the Rockets get back on the winning side of the equation I’ll call for a 3 point Jazz win (and silently hope the silent trend of Houston doing the opposite factors in to them winning the contest).
For more exciting news and stories on the Utah Jazz visit our affiliate Fansided site: Purple and Blues
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.