The Houston Rockets
Fresh off a 91-103 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Houston Rockets take on the Utah Jazz with a sense of urgency as they currently sit thirteenth in the Western Conference.
To call the Rockets most recent game a collapse may actually be an understatement. At half time the Rockets led the T-Wolves 62-48 with a firm grip on the wheel going into the third. From then on the Rockets ended up shooting 12-38 from the field and 3-22 from three.
None of PJ Tucker, Chris Paul, or Eric Gordon showed up to play for the Rockets going a combined 6-28 from the field. The Rockets are bereft of a playmaker off the bench and it seems like it will continue to hurt them the longer they stand pat.
The Utah Jazz
After what was their most impressive offensive showing of the year, the Utah Jazz sit tenth (10th) in the Western Conference with a mark of 12-13. Seeing as both teams are fighting to climb above .500, this is a key matchup on both sides.
In their most recent game against the Spurs, the Jazz made a franchise record twenty threes in the match. While you can’t expect such shooting to become the standard, the increased movement and improved spacing seem to have spurred the Jazz back into rhythm.
December is going to be a difficult stretch for the Jazz as they will be facing off against seven teams with plus .500 records. While franchise record breaking shooting likely won’t be the norm, this test against the Rockets may help them gauge their improvement.
What’s at Stake?
The Rockets and the Jazz have met 198 times in the regular season and 44 times in the playoffs. While their playoff rivalry is dead even (22-22), the Utah Jazz have the advantage all-time during the regular season at 104-94.
Both teams are 5-5 in their last ten matches. So to say each team is looking for a modicum of consistency with a win would be an underestimation. In another bout of mirroring, should either team win this match the winner would reach .500 again for the season.
Questions to Answer
Who’s favoured in this Western Conference battle?
Can the Rockets stop the Jazz’s newfound shooting?
Who can help James Harden?
We’re going to compare the Rockets and Jazz in an attempt to answer those questions.
The Rockets Are Still Top 10 in Offence
Say what you will about the Rocket’s overall struggles, this Houston team still knows how to put the ball in the basket. This is in no small part due to the tremendous offensive acumen of reigning NBA MVP James Harden.
In the past seven games, Harden has failed to score less than 25 points in each outing and has gotten to the free throw line at least eight times in each match. A maestro with the ball and an absolute danger when left wide open, Harden is the scoring engine that has driven this team to their current record despite paltry contributions from other players.
Capela has done as he always has and fed off of great passes and working on the boards; meanwhile Chris Paul is his usual crafty self. It is in Eric Gordon that comes the greatest disappointment. While he’s averaging 16.3 points per game, he’s shooting a terrible 36% from the field and 31% from three. Considering Gordon was an absolute sniper just a year ago, much better is expected of him.
The Jazz Can Finally Move the Ball
The Utah Jazz rank fifth in the NBA in assist percentage. Under Quin Snyder you saw the Jazz convert from a grind it out defensive team to one that swings the ball with conviction in hopes of attracting the right open shot.
By adding Korver to the wing, with Ingles on the other side, the Jazz now have two of the NBAs most dangerous shooters awaiting the kick from penetrators in Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell.
All is not merry though, despite Crowder going 5/9 and Korver going 4/6 from three against the Hornets their defence needs work when the bench is inserted. Against Charlotte a 14-2 run was given up by the Jazz reserves that prompted what should’ve been an unnecessary re-entry of the starters in the third.
Houston Rockets Roster Notes
Carmelo Anthony remains away from the team due to “illness”. It was made clear that the Rockets had no intention for Anthony to remain with the team and is being held out rather than waived to avoid a luxury tax hit.
Brandon Knight was sidelined September 20th with a knee injury. He has recently recovered and is rehabbing with the Houston Rockets G-League Affiliate. There is no date for Knight’s return with the parent club.
Utah Jazz Roster Notes
Ricky Rubio sprained his index finger during the match against the Spurs but came back into the game. There is no intention for Rubio to miss time.
Donovan Mitchell Has Options
It’s been an iffy start to the season for Donovan Mitchell. Despite averaging a respectable 21.3 points per game at this point in the season, he’s only converting on a below-average 29% of his three point attempts; despite attempting almost seven a game.
Teams have been able to collapse on Mitchell when he attacks the paint this season because their shooting has been off. With the addition of Korver, defenders now have to worry about another player that can knock down threes from beyond the arc at a high clip.
Despite Rubio being the best pure playmaker on the team, Mitchell performs best when he’s given playmaking duties and can drive to score or make the assist to the open teammate. If their most recent win against the Spurs is anything to take away from, Mitchell may find his groove again.
This Team Goes as Harden Goes
There’s nothing else to this team at the moment but James Harden. The Houston Rockets lost an extreme amount of balance when they lost Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza in free agency this past summer.
Harden has responded to the struggles despite not getting the support he needs. If it’s any indicator he needs help, Harden posted 54 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds in what resulted in a loss to the Washington Wizards.
In that game Harden did turn the ball over 11 times, but it was more a factor of not having enough effective outlets rather than carelessness with the ball. The Jazz are a team that will attack Harden relentlessly so if he has to be playmaker all night, his stamina might not be enough.
Head-to-Head: Rudy Gobert vs Clint Capela
Clint Capela has improved even more this year. He’s posting career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage. Overall though, his game hasn’t changed. Now averaging 34 minutes per game versus 27 last season, his improvement has come with being efficient in an increased role.
Rudy Gobert, the Stifle Tower, is also having a career year. Gobert is averaging a career high in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. Quin Snyder mixed up the lineup by taking Favors out and putting Crowder in which has only aided Gobert. With more room in the post, he as the primary roll man now has the space to finish on his own or make the decision from the high post to attack from the perimeter.
Two European monsters on the inside, Gobert (France) and Capela (Switzerland) pose an interesting matchup. Neither will create offence for themselves and both are strong recovering on the pick and roll. This matchup may come to a stalemate considering both centers have top tier playmakers aiding them.
Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Predictions and Odds
The odds makers have the Utah Jazz favoured over the Houston Rockets by 2.5, with an over/under of 110.