Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz Preview and Pick

Houston Rockets +5 (47-25) at Utah Jazz -5 (43-26) O/U 193 10:30 PM ET Tuesday March 24, 2008 on TNT
By Jason Green at Predcitem.com

Tonight the Houston Rockets hit the road to play the Utah Jazz. Considering that there are not many games separating seed 2 through 8 in the Western Conference every game is important. The Rockets recently passed the San Antonio Spurs and are now in the 2nd position in the West, while the Jazz are in the 6th position tied with the Portland Trailblazers.

There is only a 2.5 game difference between the 6th place Jazz and 2nd place Rockets. It is important that Jazz move up a couple of positions so they can host a first round playoff series. The Jazz are great at home, but are only a .500 team in away games. The Jazz have won 2 in a row and are 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Rockets have won 4 in a row and are 8-2 in their last 10 games.

This season the Jazz have the 2nd best home record at 29-6, while the Rockets are only 1 game above .500 on the road at 18-17.

NBA Sportsbooks have the Jazz as 5-point favorites in this game with a total around 193. The Jazz are posted at -200 as home favorites and the Rockets are posted at +170 as road dogs.

The Rockets come into this game after a huge away win over the San Antonio Spurs 87-85 on Sunday. The high scorer for the Rockets in that game was Ron Artest going for 24 points on 8/20 shooting. For the game the Rockets shot 34/73 for a FG% of 46.6%. On D the Rockets held the Spurs to 34/82 shooting for a FG% of 41.5%.

The Jazz come into this game after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-94 on Friday night. The high scorer for the Jazz in that game was Deron Williams going for 24 points on 11/17 shooting including dishing out 11 assists. For the game the Jazz shot 41/84 for a FG% of 48.8%. On D the Jazz allowed the Thunder to shoot 39/86 from the floor for a FG% of 45.3%.

This season the Jazz rank 7th in scoring (103.2 ppg) and the Rockets rank 18th (98.5 ppg). On D the rankings are flipped, as the Rockets rank 5th in points allowed (94.5 ppg) and the Jazz rank 13th (99.6 ppg). The Rockets are a tad better on the boards this season, as they have a rebounding differential of +2.6 rpg and the Jazz are at +0.9 rpg.

This season the Jazz are 36-33 ATS and the Rockets are 35-36-1. In terms of Over/Under games this season the Jazz are 33-34-2 and the Rockets are 35-36-1.

On the injury front C Mehmet Okur is day-to-day for the Jazz, while the Rockets are not reporting any significant injuries.

For years the Rockets have been a good team, but have not been able to avoid being bit by the injury bug. This year is no different, but even though they lost Tracy McGrady for the year due to a knee injury the Rockets are 16-4 without him and are now in first place in the Southwest Division.

One of the main reasons the Jazz are playing well is Carlos Boozer (16.7 ppg 10.9 rpg) is back in the lineup. Rockets PF Luis Scola (12.7 ppg 8.8 ppg) has stepped up without McGrady in the lineup, but he will have a hard time keeping Boozer off the boards and from dominating the paint. Ron Artest (17.7 ppg) will also be counted on for some toughness inside tonight to help with Boozer down low.

The C match up is a good one, as both Yao Ming (19.7 ppg) and Mehmet Okur (17.6 ppg) are not bruising centers that can shoot from the outside, and the player that can hit the J tonight will give their team a big advantage.

PG Aaron Brooks (11.1 ppg) has played well as the starter since the Rockets traded away Rafer Alston and tonight he has to play good D on Deron Williams (18.8 ppg), who has been on fire lately.

The home team has won each of the 3 games that these teams have played against each other this season.

Jason’s Pick: I like the Rockets to sneak in under the number and cover.