Utah at Houston
Time: 7 PM CT, NBA TV
Spread: HOU -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Houston has struggled with its defense this season, giving up 109.5 points per game (which actually ranks No. 12 in the Association this high scoring season). The Rockets manage to tally 108.4 points per game itself, but rebounding has been a serious issue, ranking No. 27 in the Association at 41.0 rebounds per game. The Rockets have been very pleased with the progression of its top rebounder Clint Capela, though. He ranks No. 2 on the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game and leads the team in boards with 11 per night. Harden has been his typical self, but Houston is really struggling with its second unit production.
After jettisoning a Carmelo Anthony who was unwilling to be the bench’s savior, it is unclear where the scoring will come from outside of sharpshooter Eric Gordon. Gordon, though, has had his struggles shooting the ball as he is connecting on just 37 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range.
Houston launches 41.7 threes per game, but it connects on just 33.6 percent of those, and its overall field goal percentage hovers under 45 percent. It is tough to place a ton of blame on the offense, given that Houston is getting so much from its starters, but the defensive effort has to improve while maintaining what has gone right—on the offensive end. Depth and defense remain Houston’s top-two problems.
The Utah Jazz, for a number of reasons, are one of the most intriguing teams in the West. This curiosity begins with runner-up for Rookie of the Year, Donovan Mitchell. Known affectionately as “Spida,” Mitchell was taken No. 13 overall last year to end up being probably the best in his draft class (Jayson Tatum enters this argument clearly). Mitchell now looks to build on last year’s campaign and provided he stays healthy, this should be his first All-Star season.
The Jazz is a team built on a defensive identity too, and it goes from the 1 to the 5-position, with Ricky Rubio being a super point guard defender and Rudy Gobert being the league’s most dominant rim protector. The Jazz also possesses depth, and it is a team with few, if any, glaring weaknesses. Joe Ingles is quietly one of the better swingmen due to his deadeye shooting and underrated defense.
The Jazz also have a unique trio of players at the power forward spot, with Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, and Georges Niang. Niang, in particular, looked really impressive in the preseason with his defense and athleticism, and Crowder is a lock-down defender in his own right. Favors has been something of a disappointment over his career, but he is still capable of a double-double on any given night.