Originally, I had hoped that the Rockets would go 5-2 during this home stand. That was the ultimate goal in my mind. Obviously going 7-0 would be nice, but 5-2 felt more realistic as a goal.
With the loss to the Warriors (we'll get to that), the Rockets now would need to win three of their next four to accomplish that. Tonight is the first of those four games when the Jazz come to town. Then the Rockets get a potentially Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers Friday. Those are winnable games.
But either way, they'll rue to the loss to the Warriors, who now sit a whole 2 games ahead of the good guys and are starting to pull away from the pack for the sixth seed.
Speaking of the Warriors game, it's a trend that's starting to become more obvious. The Rockets just don't play particularly well in the first half anymore, and against good teams (or even bad ones), you can't take a half off. Playoff teams have bad games too, but consistently avoiding them is what makes teams like the Spurs and Heat so great.
But before we get flashbacks to last season (BD mentioned Vietnam, which was kind of how I felt Sunday), let's remember: it was one game. The Rockets played about as poorly as they could have in the first half and fourth quarter. The Warriors, on the other hand, got killer performances from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. And yes, some of that was poor defense by the Rockets. But those guys were in a crazy zone that would have been tough to beat even if the Rockets had played an average game.
But we have to look forward. Or at least the team has to. Tonight's game against the Jazz represents the next step in preventing the collapse of last season.
Also, how awesome would it be if the Rockets wore their actual throwback uniforms tonight (the championship ones)? And if this game got moved to the Summit! Oh man it would be amazing. Obviously will never happen, but a man can dream.
Tip-off at 7pm CST.
PG: Jeremy Lin vs. Mo Williams
When the Rockets beat Utah in SLC by 45 (I still love typing that), Mo Williams was hurt. That allowed Lin to double down onto Millsap and Jefferson and force the poor perimeter shooters of Utah to beat the Rockets. They couldn't hit, and the Rockets cruised.
Tonight, both Williams and Hayward are back, so that strategy goes out the window a bit. But still, doubling down might be the key to the defense, since Utah runs a flex offense more than the pick-and-roll that you'll see the Rockets and most teams run.
SG: James Harden vs. Randy Foye
Foye is one of those guys that I watch on tv and think, "That guy shouldn't be in the NBA."
Then Foye plays the Rockets and I think, "GIVE HIM A MAX CONTRACT! HE'S AMAZING!"
SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Gordon Hayward
If you've seen the Jazz at all this season, you'll know that Hayward has been their most important player. He has a hand in everything they do on offense and he contributes everywhere on defense. He's the key to their game plan, and Parsons will have his hands full.
PF: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Paul Millsap
One more factor tonight is that both teams are coming off disappointing home losses. The Rockets to the Warriors, and the Jazz to the Knicks who were missing Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, and Amare Stoudemire.
Speaking of Stoudemire, I have a question: if you were the GM for the Jazz, would you have pulled the trigger on a Amare for Millsap and Jefferson deal? It would have allowed the young bigs to play more and would give the Jazz a solid big core for another couple of years. For the Knicks it's almost a no-brainer: it gives them more size and offense for a playoff run this year. I think it works out for both teams.
Right? Am I crazy?
C: Omer Asik vs. Al Jefferson
Look for both teams to attack the basket. Houston since Jefferson isn't a great defender and Utah because they want to get Asik in foul trouble so they can attack the paint. That's what they do best.
It's incredibly important for Asik to remain on the floor tonight.
I'm making this my "Khansari's Keys to the Game, brought to you by SB Nation and whatever ad is on the side!"
The Jazz will trot out Derrick Favors (another "Derrick"), Earl Watson, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, and Marvin Williams. This is a very good athletic bench.
The Rockets have Patrick Beverley, Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson, Greg Smith and Francisco Garcia
Prediction: Line is Rockets (-7.5). No O/U yet.