One of the teams I will always call a rival are the Houston Rockets, no matter how good one or our teams is, or how poor the other one is, I will always feel like there's a little more gravity around these head to head match-ups. The Utah Jazz are 13th in the Western Conference right now, and 7 of their 13 total wins this season have come on the road. The Houston Rockets are 3rd in the West, and are 12-6 at home. They almost have more home wins than our team has total wins. People expect them to make, at least, the second round this season. (N.B. The last time they got out of the first was back in 2008-2009)
Their current squad boasts one of the best offensive players of his era in James Harden, and one of the best defensive players in the paint, in Dwight Howard. Beyond these All-NBA players they
have recently traded for picked up the waived [Ed. Fixed!] over-hyped, low-efficiency player extraordinaire Josh Smith. Along side him is the under-rated, and efficient Trevor Ariza. Jason Terry, Patrick Beverley, and Corey Brewer give the team some NBA experience. And under-experienced guys like Donatas Motiejunas, Kostas Papanikolaou, and others give this squad a little of everything.
But I'm not afraid of them. I know Harden gets to the line and Dwight is allowed to foul on defense. I just don't see Houston as better than Utah, even if they currently are within the finite scope of the 2014-2015 season.
Tonight the once-again, short-handed Jazz (no Alec Burks, no Rodney Hood, and Enes Kanter is probable) will play on the road, this being game 3 of 3 on this trip. They could be tired as Quin Snyder only went 8 deep last game, and Houston could go for the knockout punch early. But still, they are Houston. Those guys suck, inherently. They do have some "injuries" as well. Dwight Howard is probable, Alexey Shved is questionable, and Terrence Jones is out.
I can see Howard wanting to sit this one out because he doesn't want to get destroyed by Rudy Gobert.
Gordon Hayward vs. Trevor Ariza. Ariza is the three and D prototype that lots of teams want. Hayward is the 'lead wing' that other teams try to find for their squads. This is a battle between two fundamentally different players, though they have the same athletic ability, and share some of the same attributes on the court. Ariza hurt the Jazz earlier by finding that short corner three, and finding himself completely open from there. If Ariza can be a low use, but high yield offensive player it could be difficult for the Jazz. In this offense he can collect points without expending a lot of energy for them. Hayward doesn't get ANYTHING else, on the other side of the ball.
Right now Gordon is the better player, but the style of play could even the score a bit.
While I was wrong LAST game about the free throws, I will bet $5 that James Harden gets to the line a lot tonight. The refs will give him too much respect when he's going up against Joe Ingles, Elijah Millsap, and others.
GO JAZZ GO!