The 44-20 Houston Rockets host the 40-24 Utah Jazz tonight in a matchup that should have implications for playoff seeding (8pm ET Wednesday). These are two Western Conference powers with strongly contrasting styles of play.
Houston has ridden its fast-paced, three-point heavy offensive attack to a whole lot of success both recently and throughout the season as a whole. While NBA teams have averaged 105.5 points and 26.9 three-point attempts per game this season, the Rockets have put up 118.8 points and 44.6 three-point attempts per game over their last 13 contests.
Utah plays one of the slowest paces in the league, taking a normal share of three-pointers. However, the Jazz’ calling card is defense, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert.
How will this matchup of offense vs. defense turn out? We’ll answer that question in the rest of this preview before deciding on our betting picks and predictions in an attempt to get the better of the American online bookies.
Will Houston Make its Three-Point Shots?
The basketball saying “live by the three, die by the three” is very appropriate to the Rockets this season. Under Mike D’Antoni, Houston is the more dependent on shots from behind the arc than any team in NBA history, by a considerable margin.
Most of the time, long-distance shots are a main source of life, not death, for the Rockets. They have stockpiled several excellent shooters that are rarely off their games at the same time. James Harden, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley will bludgeon opponents to death with their deadeye strokes.
Of course, when a team’s offensive attack is so dependent on one type of shot, there’s a problem when that shot isn’t going in for most of its takers.
The Jazz are a solid group defending the three (they allow the fewest attempts in the league and have the 19th-best opponent three-point percentage), but most games with Houston come down to “are their shooters hot as a group?”
Can George Hill Hold Off The Effects Of His Semi-Slump and Sore Big Toe?
One game stands out in George Hill’s (pictured) recent stretch of contests. He dropped an amazing 34 points and seven assists on 10-of-12 shooting against the Brooklyn Nets last Friday.
But when the veteran point guard isn’t facing the worst team in the league, his numbers look quite pedestrian over the last eight games: 14.6 points, 4.6 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game with a 40.3/38.2/79.3 shooting slash. He rested against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday to nurse a sore big toe.
Hill needs to be feeling good on both offense and defense after sitting out to give the Jazz offense the boost it needs to keep with Houston’s scoring pace.
Can Clint Capela Step Up His Game to Match His Counterpart?
The Rockets’ Capela is basically a poor man’s version of the player he’ll be matching up against, Rudy Gobert of the Jazz. Both guys are strong rim protectors, agile on defensive switches and contribute on offense mainly close to the rim. It’s just that Gobert is better at all of those things.
If Gobert finds that Houston’s 22-year-old center steps up his game tonight to provide the same things he does, the Rockets will have an edge. Capela being on his game as a rim protector will force Utah to attack the basket less often, and his gravity as a roller in the pick-and-roll can cause Gobert to play off of James Harden’s drives and get The Beard some easy buckets.
Our Preview’s Utah Jazz vs Houston Rockets Betting Predictions & Picks
Starting power forward Ryan Anderson is doubtful for the Rockets tonight with back spasms. This has a ripple effect on the team’s rotation, forcing some other guys to step up.
The past two matchups between these teams have gone two very different ways. Houston won the first game by nine at home, and the Jazz won the second contest by 19 on their home floor.
Call it a gut feeling, but I trust the stingy Jazz defense more than the Houston offense, which is so dependent on one thing (three-point shooting). Utah should keep this contest close on the road, if not win, especially with Anderson probably not playing.
- Houston are the sportsbooks’ six-point favorites. Based on what this preview has previously stated, you can probably guess that my prediction is for the Jazz to cover the spread here. So bet on Utah +6.5pts @ -110 with any of BetOnline, MyBookie or 5Dimes.
- The over-under for this game is 214 or 215pts, depending on the bookmaker. While I think the Jazz will be very competitive, the Rockets’ offense is just too dynamic for that line. Houston games have gone over 220 points combined 11 times in the team’s last 12 contests, and Utah has been at or above tonight’s line six times in its last 13 games. The smart pick here may be betting the over 214pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, MyBookie or BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.