Since the glory days of the Midwest division (aka, the Wild Wild West division) the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets have gone to war plenty of times. Of course, they have two rings, but we clutch onto the fact that we're winning head to head, and have owned them in the playoffs save for a two season stretch when we were defending Hakeem Olajuwon with Felton Spencer and then Greg Ostertag. For the record, the Jazz are 98-83 in the regular season, and 5-2 in the playoffs. The Jazz have knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs in their last four head-to-head battles in a row.
There are no playoffs in store for the Utah Jazz who were eliminated over the weekend. Houston has their eyes on finally getting out of the 1st round (McGrady *snif*) this generation, and are holding onto the 4th seed in the Western Conference. They are 44-22, and 26-7 at home. They are 3.0 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers (who have won 11 in a row), and 1.5 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers (who have problems of their own). Houston is going to be glad to be back at home after going 0-3 on their last road trip, losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat. Previous to that they had blasted off to five wins in a row, and 15 wins in their last 17 games.
They are going to try to pound the Jazz into the earth, as they beak its' surly bonds. Clutch city lost in Miami last night, and will be more than rested for us because their game was shut down early. Utah also played last night, and we look a little beat.
Both teams are 'healthy' enough to not report any injuries. Well, H-Town is missing Greg Smith, but they have plenty of size to not miss their 5th big. Size isn't a problem, or an emphasis for these Rockets. James Harden (24.7 ppg, 5.6 apg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 spg, 8.7 fta per game) is the main thrust generating force, while guys like Chandler Parson (16.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.9 apg), Dwight Howard (18.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.8 bpg) and Patrick Beverley (9.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg) are merely booster rockets. Of course, you know, if you have enough talent to call a 19/12/2/2 guy a booster rocket you have some good players on your team.
If you've seen them play you see there are some similarities with what they do that the San Antonio Spurs do -- it's mostly pick and roll determined with a legion of people who can hit threes, and anchored defensively inside with a freak of nature. Aaron Brooks, Parson, Robert Covington, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, James Harden, and even Beverley can all hit threes. And Dwight is Dwight.
They have talents and weaknesses like any team out there. They don't force a lot of turn overs, and they turn the ball more than any other team in the league but one. They don't kill it on the defensive glass, but make the other team take bad shots. They rarely foul on defense (I mean, rarely get called for them), and kill it on the offensive glass. No team takes more threes, and they defend the deep ball very well.
But none of that matters when it comes to how no team gets to the line more than them on offense, and no team has as an astounding FT/FGA ratio as they do. Expect fouls. Dwight is a monster in one-on-one and gets to the line 9.2 times a game. Harden has made a living at the line too, and he gets there only 8.7 times a game. Everyone else on the team is less than 4.0 FTA per game, but they all seem to get there enough to make it a force multiplier. Houston has the 3rd best offense in the league by PPG, the 9th fastest Pace, and the 7th best Off RTG. It's hard to defend them if your best defenders are sitting because of foul trouble.
The two big guys on our squad, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, will have targets on the front of their jerseys tonight. Alec Burks (4.8), Gordon Hayward (4.5) and Derrick Favors (4.0) get to the line a little bit per game, but as the road team this diminishes significantly. Can we keep up with all the whistles that will go their way? I don't know. We do know that Burks' FTA on the road experiences some shrinkage.
If Utah is going to compete tonight they're going to have to win the battle of their defensive glass (against one of the best offensive rebounding clubs out there), hope to neutralize either Harden or Howard, and get plenty of help from our three point shooters.
Utah played last night, are on the road, and out classed in talent and star power. It could be ugly. It could be a 3 hour game with all the fouls that'll be called.
That's probably the only factor of this Jazz/Rockets rivalry that still persists all these years later.