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Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Game Preview

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Game 56: Rockets (28-28) @ Jazz (27-28)
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 7:00 p.m. (MT)
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It's game three of four in the Utah Jazz / Houston Rockets season series. Both teams are fighting for playoff position, and both need this win. Houston has won the first two games of the season series (including a win in Utah already), but haven't faced Favors and Gobert much. Tonight they will. There are a few players missing for both teams (Dante Exum and Alec Burks for the Jazz, Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton for the Rockets -- because of a failed trade), but it should mostly be core players against core players.

There are a number of similarities between these two squads, but what's important to know is that while they have stars like James Harden and Dwight Howard, the Jazz have had players playing like stars. Gordon Hayward has been going to the line nearly 10 times a game over the last week, Rodney Hood is making clutch baskets, and Rudy Gobert is playing Dwight to a standstill in points and rebounds, but blocking more shots.

2015 2016 GM 56 HOU at UTA - Rockets Player Stats

2015 2016 GM 56 HOU at UTA - Jazz Player Stats

It's pretty clear to me that most of the focus will continue to be on James Harden -- which allows for so many open shots. Utah needs to tighten up their defense, especially after letting the Blazers guards go for 61 against them in the last game. Houston will need to go small to invalidate the Jazz' size advantage, but part of me wants to see them go big against big here. Last time they did it involved Jeff Withey not getting a foul call down the stretch though. This time around against our starters? I think the game could be changed.

Marquee Match-Up:

Gordon Hayward against Trevor Ariza. Gordon has to play well against the good defenders for him to be called elite. He's taken bad defenders out to the woodshed this season plenty of times. But Ariza will be a true test.

Prediction:

I will hate the Rockets no matter what happens in this game.