Game 36 Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz

Because it's tradition, and if I don't then Dave will ban me.

Back to back with the second leg on the road in SLC? Of course the NBA would do that. Of course. Do we play Denver the following night on top of Mt. Everest? Actually, we do play Denver next, it's just on Friday and at home.

Utah is an incredibly tough place to play. With their rabid fans, awkward color scheme (I mean, green, blue and yellow? COME ON!), and the ghost of Kyle Korver and his buddies, it's never easy to get a win in SLC.

I used to hate all Jazz fans. Period. I hadn't met one personally that I liked. There were some who would come over here to chat who were great, but there just as many who came over here to troll and cause problems. Then whenever someone would retaliate, the fan would cry foul and go back to SLC Dunk and whine about how we weren't good people and that they hated the Rockets because of their fans and TDS.

You all know I don't care about other people's opinions, especially those of trolling fans. But the hypocrisy always bothered me. Am I not allowed to dislike an NBA team? Am I supposed to love the Rockets first and all other teams second? Not on your life. I can hate whatever team I want. That right is also open to Rockets fans, NBA fans and even Jazz fans. Does it have to make sense? Not really. I knew a guy who hated Allen Iverson because he wore a shooting sleeve. That's it. The only reason. Totally ridiculous, but as a fan you get to make your own decisions. That's one of the beauties of sports.

I have my own reasons for hating the Jazz, and they have to do with their fans and how they beat us in the playoffs those times, among other things. So there are reasons. But there doesn't have to be.

But now I go to medical school with several kids from BYU. Yes, they love Jimmer (though they admit that he's sucking in the NBA) and they follow the Jazz almost as closely as I follow the Rockets, but after getting to know them I actually like some Jazz fans. That's a statement that would have made me throw up in years past.

But at the end of the day, it's still my choice. I respect those few Jazz fans who don't want to complain about what jerks we are over here. I love chatting with other fans who wish to discuss our teams in a civilized way. I can still hate the Jazz fans I don't know. I can hate the Jazz., too. And dubstep, vampires, and really anything I want. Heck, I can hate Kyle Lowry if I wanted to. I don't, I'm just saying it's possible.

Because I get to choose.

Matchups after the jump. Tip is at 8pm CST.

Matchups:

PG: Kyle Lowry vs. Devin Harris:

It's always tough to get deep into matchups on the second of a back-to-back, but I'll try here.

I'm keeping an eye on the Jazz-Kings game, which is winding down the third quarter as I type this. Harris has nine points on 3-5 shooting (2-2 from three), seven assists, two steals, and zero turnovers. Hey, that's pretty darn good no matter how you slice it.

I know it sounds stupid to say that the Jazz's biggest area of need is point guard after they traded their franchise point guard last year, but it needs to be said. Though the entire backcourt needs help. And what's interesting is that both Hayward and Burks are lottery picks who haven't really been effective yet in their positions. Both are young (Burks is a rookie, after all), but I think people expected a little more out of them, right?

Advantage: Rockets

SG: Kevin Martin vs. Gordon Hayward/Raja Bell:

So Raja Bell missed last night's game with a groin injury, and so Hayward started at the 2 and Josh Howard started at the 3. If Bell is still out tonight, expect that to continue. Otherwise, Bell probably starts here, Hayward at the 3, and Howard comes off the bench. You still with me?

Obviously the Rockets have to hope that Bell is out. He really stopped K-Mart and helped the Jazz stick around the last time around.

I guess I can give K-Mart a video to remind him how to beat the Jazz:

Kevin Martin buries Jazz with 3-point play in final seconds (via clutchfansDOTnet)

Advantage: Rockets

SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Josh Howard/Gordon Hayward:

See above for an explanation here, but I still like Parsons here over either of those guys. However, Howard can certainly do a lot of damage in a variety of different ways, so it bears watching.

Advantage: Rockets

PF: Luis Scola vs. Paul Millsap:

Last time around, when the Jazz were just getting the ball into the post and getting out of Millsap and Jefferson's ways, they hung with the Rockets. Then they started trying to play outside-in instead of inside-out, and it cost them.

It's such an interesting dynamic that the frontcourt and backcourt dynamics have totally switched for these two teams. It used to be only T-Mac for the Rockets backcourt and Yao, Scola and Landry dominating in the frontcourt. But now our guards are better than theirs, and their bigs are better than ours. It's just interesting.

Advantage: Jazz

C: Samuel Dalembert vs. Al Jefferson:

Al Jefferson almost scares me as much as Thaddeus Young.

Almost.

Advantage: Jazz

---

Bench/Role Players:

Jazz: Josh Howard*, Earl Watson, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, C.J. Miles

Rockets: Goran Dragic, Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson, Courtney Lee, Xiane

Advantage: Rockets

Injuries/Inactives:

Jazz: Raja Bell maybe

Rockets: Jordan Hill out

Prediction: Jazz 101-97

Make sure you get in on TCWHRO (we have to figure out another way to say that)'s fantasy basketball game. Details here. Just make your predictions in the comments, and maybe explain how you came to that conclusion so we have something to talk about.

Rockets vs Jazz coverage

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