So the Rockets start winning and so does the rest of the Western Conference. Minnesota is finally fading due to their myriad injuries and I think we're all waiting for Portland to go away (they refuse to die).
The Lakers and Mavs have played better of late. So if the Rockets want to stay in the playoff picture, they have to keep their lead on those teams stable.
That starts tonight with a game against the team ahead of the Rockets in the standings, the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are 15-4 at home and coming off a big OT win over the Pacers.
I hate them so much.
Tip off is at 8pm CST.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Jamaal Tinsley
Lin provided a spark in the fourth quarter against the Nets. He's going to have to step up his game and contribute throughout this one. The Jazz are tough at home, and the Rockets could really use Lin's aggressiveness if they want to steal this one.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Randy Foye
Ah, Randy Foye, you Rockets killer you.
This season, Foye is shooting 42%. He's shooting 55% against the Rockets.
He averages 11 points per game normally. He's averaging 17 against the Rockets.
He's getting more blocks, assists, and steals against us than anyone else. He even averages fewer fouls. This is ridiculous. I know James Harden is a terrible defender, but there's no excuse for Foye never seeming to foul Harden.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Marvin Williams
Poor Marvin Williams. He's been serviceable in the NBA, but all people remember are the players drafted after him: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, David Lee, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcin Gortat, and Monta Ellis are just some examples.
But it's not Williams' fault that the Hawks were stupid. He's not playing that well this season, but the Jazz run a three-big lineup enough where they only need him in spurts anyway.
Power Forward: Patrick Patterson vs. Paul Millsap
In Mike Kerns' dream world, this matchup would be going the Rockets' way. In my dream world too, actually.
Patterson didn't play as well against Brooklyn as he did against the Hornets stat-wise, but the effort and hustle were still there. When it boils down, that's really all the Rockets need from their 4s: hustle and rebounding (which work hand-in-hand). And also to occasionally knock down an open triple and not be terrible on defense.
Center: Omer Asik vs. Al Jefferson
Jefferson can still do work on the block. He's going 17/10 and can out-work Asik if the Big O can't get himself together.
It's important for Asik to stay out of foul trouble. The Jazz have a bevy of bigs while the Rockets become really thin after Asik. Whether or not Asik can stay on the floor will be the key to the game.
Rockets: Toney Douglas, Carlos Delfino, Greg Smith, Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverley
Jazz: Derrick Favors, DeMarre Carroll, Enes Kanter, Earl Watson, Gordon Hayward
Prediction: Jazz pull away with some bogus calls, win 104-96