The Rockets (7-3) swept a pair of road games and improved to 6-1 outside Houston with a 119-104 win at Atlanta on Friday night. James Harden had 29 points and 11 assists to pace six players in double figures for Houston, which matched a season best with 28 assists and had a season-high 28 fast break points.
Houston have scored 40.2 percent of their points from three-point range, but that number dips to 32.6 percent through their first three home games. The Rockets are shooting just 25.0 percent (33 for 132) from beyond the arc at home, well off their season mark of 31.7 percent.
Utah (5-4) are playing their lone road game in a stretch of nine contests and are coming off their first home loss of the season in Friday night’s 109-100 defeat to Toronto. Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 25 points off the bench for the Jazz, who allowed a season high in points.
The 13th overall pick in the draft, Mitchell has averaged 20.8 points in his last four games while shooting 44.4 percent (12 for 27) from three-point range and 46.2 percent overall. Utah though, are 0-3 on the road and hitting three-pointers at just a 29.3 percent clip in those games.
Three keys to the game
Finding the right notes on the road - Utah's breakdowns outside Salt Lake City are taking place on both ends of the court. The Jazz have committed 61 turnovers in their three road games that have led to 79 points, and they give up an NBA-worst 23.2 points per game on turnovers overall.
On the defensive end, Utah's interior defense has been sorely lacking as they have been outscored 142-104 in the paint in those three defeats.
Harden "4" three - Four seems to be the magic number for Harden three-pointers and Rockets wins. They are 6-0 when Harden makes at least four three-pointers in a game and 1-3 when he makes three or fewer.
In Houston's three home games this season, he made 6 of 13 in a win against Dallas but a combined 5 of 15 in defeats to Memphis and Philadelphia.
Hot and cold Rodney Hood - A streaky scorer, Hood had 17 points through two and a half quarters Friday night but went scoreless in the final 18:33. That came after going 0 for 11 from the field in Utah's overtime win over Portland.
Hood has been steady in his two road games this season, averaging 21.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting. The Jazz will need that consistency to be successful on the road.
Matchup to watch
PG James Harden vs. the Jazz guards - Hood, Mitchell and Ricky Rubio are all going to get their cracks at Harden, but that doesn't mean they'll be successful. Mitchell couldn't contain DeMar DeRozan at pivotal stretches Friday night, and the Jazz have allowed 30-point scorers in their last two games.
In this game, they will have to funnel Harden outside to prevent the drive-and-dish that leaves Rockets spot-up shooters open for three-point attempts.
Utah Jazz projected starting lineup
PG - Ricky Rubio | SG - Rodney Hood | C - Rudy Gobert | SF - Joe Ingles | PF - Derrick Favors
Houston Rockets projected starting lineup
PG - James Harden | SG - Eric Gordon | C - Clint Capela | SF - Trevor Ariza | PF - Ryan Anderson
Harden has dominated the Jazz of late, averaging 28.4 points, 6.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds in the last 10 matchups with one triple-double and six games of 30 or more points.
Rockets center Clint Capela could be a sneaky play given Utah's defensive struggles along the interior; he's had six double-doubles this season and is averaging 13.2 points while shooting 69.0 percent.
While Rubio is averaging a career-high 17.0 points this season, he has failed to reach 20 in 18 games against the Rockets. But if you need assists, the Spaniard is your man since he has averaged 8.8 helpers in those games, including a 17-assist effort last season.
Hood is averaging 15.6 points in 10 lifetime games versus Houston and is a 44.1 percent three-point shooter against the Rockets.
While the Jazz are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 road games, they've covered just twice in their last seven trips to Houston. The Rockets, though, have struggled against the number at home, failing to beat the spread in 10 of their last 13 at the Toyota.
The spread has climbed in Houston's favor to 7.5 points, but the over/under has remained constant at 202 points. The teams went over that on all three occasions in 2016/17, scoring at least 213 points each time, and that makes the over a stronger play than the Rockets as favorites.
Lost in the Rockets' fast start besides playing well on the road is that they have done almost all of it without guard Chris Paul, who will miss at least two more weeks with a knee injury.
Houston have the offensive style that will give Utah fits given their inability of late to stop guards from penetrating into the middle. That means Harden can run pick-and-rolls to the basket with Capela, and even if that doesn't work, the Rockets have the speed on the wings to attack from the corners.
Houston probably won't run as much as they did against Atlanta, but Utah can ill-afford to give the Rockets live-ball turnovers to convert because the Jazz have awful transition defense. This seems like a game where the Rockets finally hit at a high clip from three-point range and roll to a 117-102 win.
This game will be televised locally on AT&T SportsNet Southwest and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. Tip off time is 7 pm ET.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?