Preview: Houston At Utah
When: 9:00 PM ET, Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz are part of a three-team race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference and the two squads square off in a crucial contest on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. Houston holds a half-game lead over the Jazz for the final playoff spot and has already won the first two games of this season’s four meetings.
Another victory would give the Rockets the tiebreaker edge over Utah and place the Jazz in a tough position when it comes to the three-team tussle. Utah lost to Portland 115-111 on Sunday, and that allowed the Trail Blazers to win the series 3-1 and hold the tiebreaker over the Jazz. Houston has been underachieving most of the season and the players have been talking about forging a strong final third of the season. The Rockets began that task by beating the lowly Phoenix Suns 116-100 on Friday for only their third victory in nine games.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ROOT (Houston, Utah)
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (28-28): One win over Phoenix doesn’t mean Houston is about to blast off but the defensive effort was encouraging as the Rockets forced 21 turnovers, held the Suns to 36.6 percent shooting and scored 37 fast-break points. “I thought our defense was great, despite us missing shots early in the game,” center Dwight Howard told reporters. “We still played defense. Our communication was key throughout the game, and that’s something we need to continue.” All-Star guard James Harden is averaging 32.8 points over the last four games and he has twice reached 30 against the Jazz this season, averaging 31.5 points in the two victories.
ABOUT THE JAZZ (27-28): Utah acquired backup guard Shelvin Mack from that Atlanta Hawks at Thursday’s trading deadline and he impressed in his club debut with 16 points and six assists against the Trail Blazers. The Jazz are hoping for better production than what Trey Burke and Raul Neto have been providing and Mack arrives with a comfortable feel as Snyder formerly was an assistant in Atlanta and small forward Gordon Hayward was a college teammate of his at Butler for two seasons. “What we’re looking for more than anything is consistency from that position,” Snyder told reporters. “We traded for him to help us and he is different than the other guys. He is going to play and how much or how little is going to depend on a lot of other things, including him, including other players, including who we’re playing against.”
1. The Rockets have won 10 of the past 12 meetings.
2. Utah PF Derrick Favors has topped 20 points in three of the past four games and is averaging 21.3 points during the stretch.
3. Houston SF Trevor Ariza scored 25 points against Phoenix after tallying in single digits in five of the previous eight games.
PREDICTION: Jazz 105, Rockets 102