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Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Overtone: Potential Late-season Tiebreaker

Is it too early for a must-win game?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (10-8) head home this evening to take on the Houston Rockets (11-6). You might be asking yourself, “Self, didn’t the Jazz just play in Minnesota last night?” You are correct! They played the Minnesota Timberwolves and emerged with a road victory, 112-103. The Rockets, on the other hand, did not play last night. It is unfortunate that the Jazz have to play on 0 nights’ rest against a team that could be neck-and-neck with the Jazz in playoff positioning. That’s why tonight’s game could be one of the most important games of the season for the Jazz.

These two teams play each other three times this season; twice in Houston and once (tonight) in Utah. If they finish the season with identical records the head-to-head record will factor into a tiebreak scenario. One of the three games was played 10 days ago in Houston and the Rockets notched a 111-102 win against a very depleted Jazz squad.

The Jazz will need to win both of the remaining games against the Rockets in order to have the edge in a potential record tiebreaker at season’s end. The odds of these teams finishing with identical records is pretty slim but nonetheless crucial. Tonight’s game could be the difference between home-court advantage in a 4-5 playoff match-up.

Last season the Jazz and the Rockets ended up battling for one of the few final playoff spots in the Western Conference. Utah choked and Houston managed to get into the playoffs and get swept by the supervillains Golden State Warriors. The Jazz are shaping up to be better than last year but so too are the Rockets. James Harden is playing out of his mind (28.9 PTS/12.2 AST/7.5 REB). Clint Capela shot attempts are almost exclusively alley-oops. There are bound to be other players on the Rockets but I’m kind of drawing a blank tbh. Is Trevor Ariza still there? What’s Dwight Howard up to?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Utah Jazz
Oh, that’s right.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

That’s the thing though; the supporting cast is less important when you have a superstar like Harden. The Jazz don’t have a superstar (yet). I would argue that the Jazz have a much better roster top to bottom however. I want to believe that Houston’s record (11-6) is the product of an easy schedule so far but that’s simply not the case. Per TeamRankings the Rockets have had the fourth hardest schedule so far with the Jazz (10-8) close-behind at sixth. ESPN’s RPI Rankings say Houston has had the sixth hardest schedule while Utah sits at eighth.

Going into the season many people saw Houston slipping out of playoff contention this year but we might just have to face the fact that Houston is actually better this year. Sure, the season isn’t even a one-fourth over yet. James Harden is carrying a huge load akin to that of Russell Westbrook or Anthony Davis. Is it sustainable?

Each game 1-82 is weighted the same in the win-loss columns. This one is just a little more important than the others.. And it’s only November. Is this a must-win game?

#PlayoffPush starts... Now!

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