NBA Betting Preview: Houston vs. Utah

February 23, 2016 •

usa-today-9037610.0Tomorrow night at the Vivint Smart Home Arena, the Houston Rockets will make a little visit to the Utah Jazz to square off and try to win some important points.

The Rockets will be pumped, and away from the attention, scrutiny and limelight in Houston, they’ll feel less stressed and more free to finally get a nice win after dropping six of their last nine games. Houston will be on the road for a while, this game being their fourth in a stretch of 11 of 13 games to be played on the road. That’s why getting in a win now, with a similarly matched team in the Jazz, will be crucial for the Rockets to not implode.

They are 12-15 away from home this season so that’s one record they need to work on, and now’s their chance. They haven’t beaten a team other than the Suns on the road in almost a month, since Jan. 25. Face to face, the Rockets have won 10 of 12 games against the Jazz, including the first two meetings this season so they know who they are facing. James Harden is averaging 31.5 points himself against the Jazz this season so he will probably want to continue his dominance. In his past 13 games, he has averaged 29.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists while making 41.2 percent of his 3s. So he will be a key player for Houston.

The Houston Rockets are averaging 105.2 points on 44.4 percent shooting and allowing 106.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting. James Harden is averaging 28 points and seven assists while Dwight Howard is averaging 14.6 points and 11.9 rebounds. Trevor Ariza is grabbing 4.7 rebounds and Patrick Beverley is dishing 2.7 assists. The Houston Rockets are shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc and 70.2 percent from the free throw line. The Rockets are allowing 36.1 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 42.7 rebounds per game. Notably, the Houston Rockets have lost five of their last eight road games.

The Utah Jazz will be looking to keep their winning attitude and performances going after taking eight of their last 11 games. Before they lost to Portland this past Sunday, the Jazz had won eight of 10 games. They fell a half-game behind the Rockets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, so these two teams are battling neck to neck to get that last playoff spot.

At home the Jazz have a decent record of 18-10 with a six-game winning streak. Their new point guard Shelvin Mack, was just acquired on Thursday from the Atlanta Hawks and he played 24 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s game. He scored 16 points with six assists. The Jazz are also 20-14 with Frenchman, Rudy Gobert in the lineup and that’s a good sign because he should be on his game. Gordon Hayward is also playing well, averaging a career-high 19.9 points per game. But against the Rockets he has averaged just 17.5 points on 41.9 percent shooting, 30.8 percent shooting on 3s, with more turnovers (10) than assists (8), so that’s gotta change if the Jazz want to win.

Utah is averaging 98.1 points on 44.7 percent shooting and allowing 96.8 points on 44.6 percent shooting. Gordon Hayward is averaging 19.9 points and 3.6 assists while Derrick Favors is averaging 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds. Shelvin Mack is dishing six assists and Rodney Hood is grabbing 3.3 rebounds. The Utah Jazz are shooting 35.6 percent from beyond the arc and 75 percent from the free throw line. The Jazz are allowing 36.5 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 42.8 rebounds per game. At home, the Utah Jazz have won six straight games.

Statistically speaking: The Jazz has a strong defense that can be very disruptive, which has only allowed a league-low 18.4 assists per game. After averaging 26 assists for three games, the Rockets have averaged only 20 assists per game in the past four games, so they could be on a down swing.

The Jazz are playing great basketball right now, and their defense will probably give a basketball team with a low IQ, like Houston, a lot trouble. But the Rockets are still extremely talented on the offensive side, and if they want to be a part of the post season they need to start winning right now. That urgency should make for a very electric and tight game. Houston will make it close, but the Jazz should be able to squeeze a win out at home, and come out on top in this one.

Our Pick: Jazz over Rockets, 105-101