Thank you, Chris Paul.
There. We said it. If it wasn’t for CP3, Donovan Mitchell would have returned to school at Louisville and never made the jump to the NBA. As the Utah Jazz face off against the Houston Rockets in what could be a complete dismantling by the league’s historically best offense, it will be hard to well up the warm feels to remember that the Jazz’s rookie phenom wouldn’t have declared for the draft without Chris Paul’s convincing.
The Utah Jazz have an Everest sized task ahead of them. The aforementioned Chris Paul just was announced as player of the week. The Houston Rockets are on a 13 game winning streak since he returned to the lineup, and they’re looking to make it 14 straight tonight with a win against the Utah Jazz.
Consider this, Chris Paul is in the 100th percentile in points scored and assisted. He’s the best. Point blank. Having one of the most efficient seasons of his career. The Houston Rockets? All of their players are having the most efficient seasons of their career or second most efficient seasons of their career. This team is a buzzsaw.
Utah will have to rely upon the trio of Donovan Mitchell, Rodney Hood, and Alec Burks to give them an upset in Houston. Donovan Mitchell who has been on a tear in December will either be guarding Chris Paul or James Harden for most of the night. That’s just miserable.
When: Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, 6:30 PM MT
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone
Rudy Gobert - OUT (Knee)
Derrick Favors - OUT (Concussion Protocol)
Dante Exum - OUT (Shoulder)
Raul Neto - Questionable (Concussion)
Clint Capella - Undetermined (Heel)
James Harden - Probable (Bruised Right Knee)
Luc Mbah a Moute - OUT (Shouler)
Troy Williams - Questionable (MCL)
What to watch for
Jazz backcourt vs Rockets backcourt
Guarding the Houston Rockets backcourt is the textbook definition of a nightmare. Harden and Paul combine for 49.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 18.3 assists a game. This is while getting all their buckets either beyond the arc or at the rim. Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell get their first crack at disrupting them to start the game.
Donovan Mitchell will get his shot at slowing down the beard, but mostly Mitchell needs to take advantage of Harden’s iffy defense and light it up. What has become evident over December is Utah can’t get a W unless Mitchell is shouldering a lot of that offensive burden. What is difficult about playing Houston is they’re going to want to speed this game up plenty. Can Utah show some discipline and keep this game at their tempo while disrupting Paul and Harden? We’ll see.
Expect Quin Snyder to throw out multiple defensive looks and possible throw Thabo on Harden to slow him down.
Ekpe Udoh defending the paint
Who knew that with a loaded frontcourt in Utah, Udoh would be getting so many minutes? Ekpe Udoh had an amazing game filling in for Rudy Gobert finishing with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 assists, and 3 steals. It almost looks like an Andrei Kirilenko stat line. Udoh was REALLY close to a 5x5. Udoh will once again be asked to perform a thankless task and go from keeping LeBron out of the paint to the Beard, not an enviable task.
Good news for Utah is Ekpe Udoh had a positive +/- while he was in the game last night. Bad news is the Jazz will be without Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.
Most likely Jazz-Killer: LITERALLY ANYONE IN A HOUSTON ROCKETS JERSEY
One does not just walk into Houston and leave with a win. This is entering Mordor without your party. The Jazz are already undermanned without Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, they are playing without their two backup point guards, and their main point guard Ricky Rubio has had trouble integrating into the Utah offense. Stack on top of that situation that Utah is in the midst of a grueling road trip and this game could get ugly fast. James Harden, Chris Paul, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, or LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE could light it up in a hurry. Jazz will need some Spida-man heroics to even stay within striking distance in Houston.