In what will be their second meeting of the season, the Houston Rockets (18-4) face off against a very different Utah Jazz (13-12). The last time Houston met Utah, the Jazz were one of the worst offenses in the league, mostly relying upon Ricky Rubio and Rodney Hood for offense. What a difference a month makes; the Utah Jazz now enter Houston with one of the league’s most potent offenses led by emergence of Donovan Mitchell.
Donovan Mitchell, who is coming off of a 31 point outing against one of the league’s best defenses in Oklahoma City, has been setting the league ablaze. He recently set a rookie record of most threes in the first 25 games of the season by a rookie with 61 made attempts. In addition, his high flying athleticism is getting the lead to take note.
The Houston Rockets enter this game doing their best Golden State Warriors impression. The Rockets have a Net Rating of 11.4 and have been dismantling opponents. The last time these two teams met it wasn’t pretty. James Harden went off for 56 points and 13 assists. The Jazz also didn’t have to deal with Chris Paul as he was out with an injury for that game.
When: December 7, 2017 8:30 PM MST
Where: Vivint SmartHome Arena
TV: TNT, AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone
C Nene - OUT (eye)
C Zhou Qi - Questionable (Calf)
Troy Williams - Questionable (Knee)
SG Rodney Hood - OUT (Ankle)
SF/PF Joe Johnson – OUT (Wrist)
PG Dante Exum– OUT (Shoulder)
PG Raul Neto - Probable
Things to watch for
The Ricky Rubio conundrum
It hurts to critique any part of Ricky Rubio’s game because the guy is just the kindest, nicest guy in the world so ... here we go. The Jazz unfortunately were in a position to lose their last game because he was on the floor for too long. The Jazz’s offense during their winning streak was able to flourish because of spacing and it appears teams are finding ways to limit Rubio while on the court even if there are 3 other shooters who can space the floor.
Rubio’s last few games have been rough:
7 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
4 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
0 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
While those are great for a backup, it hurts the offense. Against the Thunder, they tried to force Utah into the Rubio/Favors pick and roll which yielded poor results.
How does Donovan Mitchell save his energy?
Donovan Mitchell has been on a hot streak. He put up 41 against the Pelicans, 21 against
Bullets Wizards, then 31 against the Thunder. He’s been putting in work. Tonight will be tough though. He’ll have to guard either Chris Paul or James Harden, depending on the switch, then hope to have enough energy to go and get his points. If this Jazz winning streak has taught us anything it’s that for the Jazz to have success Donovan Mitchell has to play like an All-Star. That seems incredulous to type that for a rookie, but that’s where we’re at right now.
Rudy Gobert’s return
Rudy will never admit it, but he looked like the back to back had taken its toll on him. He looked tired. That could be just getting his sea legs back after missing quite a bit of time. Something to watch will be how Derrick Favors battle the contusion vs Rudy Gobert. The injury seemed to reoccur throughout the season. Hopefully Rudy gets back to full speed. The improved spacing should allow Rudy to flourish. Hopefully, we see a much improved Rudy tonight with rest.
Most likely Jazz Killer: James Harden
The dude put up 56 points and 13 assists the last time the Jazz played him. Let’s not overthink this.
[Correction: Prior article had Washington Wizards injury report. We apologize to the Dunkers, but not to Houston fans.]