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Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz game preview

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After moving to 2-0 on this 5-game road trip, the Rockets can start to get greedy.

The Golden State-Denver back-to-back has looked like a loss and schedule loss since the schedule came out. I’m sure Houston will get up to play the Warriors, but winning in Oakland is difficult. And in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back? Yeah, that’s just the schedule makers giving Houston the finger.

But tonight is Houston’s chance to exceed expectations. I think the easy choice was to say that Houston splitting the Blazers-Jazz segment would be good. But now that Houston has won the first game, they can try to steal one more on the road and guarantee a winning record over these 5 games.

So let’s talk about the Jazz. Utah allows the fewest points per game (insert outdated statistic disclaimer) by almost 4 per game. They only score over 97 points a night, so their pace is clearly slow (it’s actually the slowest in the league-Houston is 14th). In terms of efficiency, they are middle of the road (14th) on offense and 2nd overall on defense.

Utah actually played last night, winning in Minnesota behind a strong defensive second quarter, giving the Jazz a third straight win. Last time the Rockets and Jazz met, Utah was without George Hill and Derrick Favors. The latter is still out, but Hill is back and thriving in SLC.

The Jazz are 7-3 when Hill plays. He’s averaging 21 points per game on 55% shooting overall and 47% from deep. It’s rare to see a player having a career year at the age of 30, but Hill is a free agent this summer, so having a contract year isn’t the most surprising thing in the NBA.

Oh, and of course:

Tip-off is at 8pm CT on NBA TV.