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Game Day: Short Handed Houston Rockets Seek 2-wins-in-row Over Utah Jazz

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Jan 4, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) reacts after being hit in the eye in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) reacts after being hit in the eye in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
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Game Day: Utah Jazz versus Houston Rockets

Last game a fan made “a point” of letting James Harden know he didn’t appreciate his game which may have been the factor that led to his strong second half performance and ultimate Houston Rockets win.  Cut forward to this evening and the Rockets will look to take some more adversity and make a point (sans laser) all their own.

Yes, it’s exactly the same team the Rockets played their last game out but the situation has changed a bit since that last game most notably in terms of health and playoff seeding. Entering tonight’s contest the teams have swapped seeds with the Rockets now in 7th and the Jazz bumped down to the 8th seed because of the loss to the Rockets and another in San Antonio. In terms of health Rudy Gobert has been upgraded to questionable for the first time since he went out due to his twisted ankle and Dwight Howard may be out with his back acting up again (which you can read more about in Ben Casey’s article).

Suffice to say with the myriad of Rockets already either on the disabled list or nursing injuries it leaves the team rather thin in terms of available bodies. This is disconcerting given the Rockets can’t afford to be throwing away any games as they continue to move closer to the half way mark of the season.

The Details

Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX,

Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT

TV: NBA League Pass and ROOT

Radio: 790 AM and KZNS

Recent History:

  • Jan 4 HOU 93 – 91 UTA
  • April 15 UTA 91-117 HOU
  • Mar 13 HOU 91-109 UTA
  • Jan 11 UTA 82-97 HOU

Walking Wounded:

Jazz:

  • Rudy Gobert   – knee, upgraded to game time decision  (has been out since November)
  • Derrick Favors – back, listed as out until January 9th
  • Alec Burks – ankle, out until February 15th (at least)
  • Dante Exum– knee, out for the season

Rockets:

  • Dwight Howard  left practice due to back stiffness, will be a game time decision
  • Ty Lawson   starts his 3-game suspension due to the second DUI he received last season in California
  • Marcus Thornton – personal, still listed as game time decision after his fiancee gave birth
  • Donatas Motiejunas – back, out until January 7th at a minimum
  • Sam Dekker had bad surgery is out 3 months

Shootaround Update: Dwight Howard has lower back tightness. He is a game-time decision tonight.

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 7, 2016

Projected Starters:

Jazz: Raul Neto, Rodney HoodGordon Hayward, Trey Lyles, Jeff Withey

*Note: If Gobert is a go, he’ll replace Withey in the starting line-up

Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James HardenTrevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Clint Capela

 *Note if Howard can’t go  I would imagine Terrence Jones replacing him in the starting line-up

Key Reserves:

Jazz: Trevor BookerTrey Burke, Joe Ingles

Rockets: Corey Brewer,  Jason TerryK.J. McDaniels, Montrezl Harrell

Key Match-up:

Just like last game there are so many missing parts and pieces to both teams’ rosters and unknowns that it’s difficult to isolate a key match-up. Rather, it’s imperative the Rockets take advantage of the Jazz having played in San Antonio last night and jump on them early. If there was ever a time for James Harden to showcase his leadership it would be tonight.

Ironically, it was last season when the Rockets entered each night with barely enough players each game to form a full starting line-up and partial bench unit when they were at their best. Perhaps being thrust back into that situation will force them to play at their best defensively and they can rediscover the “it” missing from this seasons’ performances.

Jass at Rockets Stats
Jass at Rockets Stats

Keys to Winning:

  • Get off to a strong start: Take the Jazz out of the game early and take advantage of them being on a second night of a back to back game.
  • 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. If Gobert returns those numbers become less 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. If Gobert returns and Howard is out this category becomes even more imperative to win.
  • Just win! Eenough of this inconsistent up-down, up-down, up-down season. Fight through the lack of bodies available and adversity to rediscover the team of a season ago who won in spite of everything!
  • Sorry, this picture was just too darn adorable… had to include it:

Back by PUP-ular demand! RT to vote for @JHarden13 & a chance to win free tickets to tomorrow's game. #NBAVote pic.twitter.com/IFKtDH0uPt

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 6, 2016

More from Space City Scoop

The Pick:

The odds makers have the Rockets favored by 7.5 points with an over – under of 197.5 with the action slightly favoring the Rockets.

Prediction: So last game out I noted I’m not an overly superstitious person, but noted the Rockets had routinely done precisely the opposite of what I (and most analysts) assumed they would each game this season. So, with tongue in cheek I predicted the Jazz would win by 3 points (and told you all I really was calling for a Rockets 3 point win). Then of course the Rockets won by 2 points!

Now as we enter tonight 7.5 points seems like an awfully big spread to give the home team even though the Jazz played last night. Factor in all the players who won’t be on the court and the ones who COULD be suiting up (Gobert) and suddenly that seems like a rather large margin.

Still, I’m not going to spend all season pretending to vote one way and then vote another (at least I’m not desperate enough to start doing that yet), so I’ll firmly say the Rockets should win this game, but not cover the spread.

Now is the time (as I mentioned above) for the team and Harden to regrasp the essence of what made them special last season. They won games with only 8 players available for most of the first few months of the 2014-15 campaign and did it by playing as a team and utilizing tough nosed defense.  I say tonight is as good a time as any for Harden to reclaim his leadership position via his actions on the court.

Rockets by 5 and Harden comes close to a triple-double.

For more exciting news and stories on the Utah Jazz visit our affiliate Fansided site: Purple and Blues

Next: Jazz Team Preview - Return To Old School Jazz

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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.

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