Houston Rockets playing to win vs tanking Jazz squad

The Houston Rockets will look to extend the Jazz's losing streak tonight.
The Houston Rockets will look to extend the Jazz's losing streak tonight. / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

At this stage of the 2023-24 NBA season, some teams have nothing to play for. On the other hand, some teams have plenty to play for - they just don't have any incentive to win.

Take the Utah Jazz. They're on a 13-game losing streak. That's perfect for Utah. They owe their upcoming first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder with top-10 protection.

Now, that pick looks likely to stay in Salt Lake City. The Jazz are flagrantly tanking. They're resting their best players wherever they can to afford opportunities for some of their younger players.

That's perfect for a Houston Rockets team that's still looking to win games. They square off with the Jazz tonight.

Houston Rockets still playing to win

Sure, the Rockets are out of the playoff race. Like the Jazz, they owe their next pick to the Thunder with protections. Since the Rockets have been competitive most of the year, and that pick is only top-4 protected, they understand that they're overwhelmingly likely to send that pick to the Thunder.

Besides, the Rockets have a lottery pick coming via the Brooklyn Nets. For them, the home stretch of the 2023-24 season is about building on the improvements they've made throughout the year.

Will they showcase those improvements in tonight's action?

Houston Rockets can't take opponents lightly

Yes, the Rockets are heavy favorites to win this game. They still need to take the Jazz seriously.

Remember: players don't tank. Organizations do. The Jazz will deliberately limit the minutes of their best players, but young guns like Brice Sensabaugh, Keyonte George, and Darius Bazley will still be playing to win.

Remember: the Jazz are on a staggering 13-game losing streak. The Rockets do not want to be the team to break that streak. That certainly wouldn't be an encouraging sign heading into the 2024-25 season.

The Rockets need to remember what they're playing for.