Houston Rockets @ Utah Jazz on 12/2/2013

It’s been a good week for the Houston Rockets. They won all four games, including a come-from-behind win against a division rival in the Memphis Grizzlies and a real barnburner against the San Antonio Spurs, one of the elite teams in the league. Terrence Jones is coming into his own, James Harden has returned from injury, and the bench seems to be gelling. They’re on cloud nine and nothing could bring the Rockets down now.

Actually, a gut-punch loss to a tanking team right after a huge, tough win might do it. The Utah Jazz have been many things to the Rockets over the years: rival, stumbling block, and lately fodder. Being the trap in the trap game would just be the latest incarnation of a decades-long rivalry. The Rockets are the better team, and should expect to win this game handily. Houston just passed a test of grit and determination in San Antonio. Now they have to pass a test of vigilance in Utah, against a young squad ready to hop on the Rockets if they show complacency.

The last time these two teams squared off, nobody knew exactly what to expect from the Utah Jazz. It was only the third game of the season and the young talent on the Jazz looked promising at worst. The promise of players like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors is still there. What isn’t there is an offense or a defense. The Jazz give up the most points per 100 possessions in the league, at a deeply troubling efficiency of 106.3. On the other side of the ball, their offensive efficiency of 94 points per 100 possessions is almost as bad, placing them at 27th in the league. In short, this is a team that loses often and loses with aplomb.

Why should the Rockets be afraid? Two weeks ago, the clearly tanking Philadelphia 76ers brought the Rockets to their knees in a crushing overtime defeat, largely at the hands of James Anderson. Every NBA player is amazing, and every NBA team is bursting with talent. Drive and effort matter in this league, and those can fade away as easily as they arrive. Just because a front office has no use for wins doesn’t mean the players and coaches feel the same way, and Jazz head coach Ty Corbin won’t complain if point guard Trey Burke explodes any game of the season.

The response from the Rockets and head coach Kevin McHale has to be to slam the door early and firmly. The Rockets are starting to look like an elite team, but unlike the Spurs or the Miami Heat, they don’t have the luxury of having nothing to prove. Houston, in fact, has quite a bit to prove, meaning that they have to bring a real level of effort to every game, even ones LeBron and the Heat can afford to sleepwalk through. If the Rockets want any room to coast, they’ll have to create that room right away with a huge lead out of the gate.

Watch for the bench in particular to be crucial in this game. With Jeremy Lin out with a knee bruise and Chandler Parsons continuing to suffer from back spasms (which he can play through), players like Omri Casspi and Aaron Brooks will continue to have to come up big for Houston. The trend of the reserves being able to handle increasing load is a huge boon for Houston, and they’re likely to try to foster that more and more over the course of the season. Every minute James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons can be replaced by Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and Ömer Aşık is one step closer to having a fresh, healthy team for the playoffs.

The Rockets might not be particularly afraid of Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams, but they still need to respect them. Any team can win on any given night, and the Rockets need to respond to their win over the Spurs with a San Antonio level of stoicism. If they celebrate too much or let their guard down, anything could happen. Every game is a test for this young would-be contender, and they can’t afford to start failing now. The Rockets and Jazz tip off at 8:00 pm Central time at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Total comments: 25
  • Steven says 10 months ago I'm not saying I want no defense. But a lot of the time good defense is just bad offense. I want the ball movement and player movement and the defenses reacting. I want to watch the chess matches on the court. Not the NY Knicks version of Melo beating a whole in the floor before jacking up a shot with 3 seconds on the shot clock. I want as many pocessions as possible, the fast breaks the jumping of passes. Everything that comes with two teams running up and down the court for the full 48 minutes.
  • rockets best fan says 10 months ago

    My suggestion would be to learn to appreciate both facets of the game, but that doesn't seem to be an option. Without defense, the scoring is hollow and meaningless....it would be like the all-star game every night, but with less talent. It is an interesting perspective for a fan to have, but to each their own.

    I agree. if you are only watching offense......you're only watching half a game. I am justas intrigued by a player's ability to shut down a great player as I am to see that said player put up 40.

  • thejohnnygold says 10 months ago

    My suggestion would be to learn to appreciate both facets of the game, but that doesn't seem to be an option. Without defense, the scoring is hollow and meaningless....it would be like the all-star game every night, but with less talent. It is an interesting perspective for a fan to have, but to each their own.

  • Steven says 10 months ago

    You're thinking of the Globetrotters... :P

    021612unitnews6FS.gif


    After working 60+ hours a week in order for me to invest my time into watching the Rockets, I need to be entertained. Come playoffs the circumstances are entertaining enough, barring a blowout, but for the regular season they better entertain. Why else would I drop big money to sit in a chair at the Toyota Center, or not change the channel when they have score 60 points going into the fourth?
  • vonsteve says 10 months ago

    You're thinking of the Globetrotters... :P

    021612unitnews6FS.gif

    Ha! Awesome. Unfortunately, our defense last night more resembled the Washington Generals than the Globetrotters.

  • rocketrick says 10 months ago

    I was pissed about this game tonight, but some of the post tonight have flipped me into defense mode. we are a newly assembled team searching for cohesion. all players and teams have bad games. I agree with 2016......we got a little to relaxed and got our butts whipped. lets hope there was a lesson learned, but I don't think it's time for us to start tossing dirt on this new Rocket's team at least until we have driven it around the block a few times. we stunk tonight......it's 1 game in a season of 82. now when we start to see a trend then it's time to get worried


    My sentiments exactly. Not to mention having Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons on the bench in their suit jackets never helps the cause, either. As much credit as Patrick Beverly gets for his defensive skills, he was no match last night against the Jazz guards, they were just on fire for once.
  • thejohnnygold says 10 months ago

    You're thinking of the Globetrotters... :P

    021612unitnews6FS.gif

  • Steven says 10 months ago

    Lol. I'd rather the Rockets win a championship. Maybe that's just me.

    That can't happen until may and June. Until then, it's their job to entertain.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 10 months ago Lol. I'd rather the Rockets win a championship. Maybe that's just me.
  • Steven says 10 months ago Defense basketball is boring. Rather lose a game 120-115 then win one 85-80.
  • thejohnnygold says 10 months ago

    Hello, Smeggysmeg--welcome to the forum! Enjoyed your posts and look forward to more.

    I see you are a fan of defense. If you were going to break down this roster to shore up what appears to be a weakness right now, are there any players in particular you would target? Ideally these would be realistic targets (I think we'd all love to have Paul George, but I just don't see that happening...BTW, did anyone flip over to the Pacers-Blazers game after the Rox last night? Wow. The last 5 minutes of that game were awesome. Paul George showed exactly why he is a top 10 player in this league. Aldridge brought it on the other end. Lillard was great. Fun stuff. Sorry, got distracted...) Trade targets...I'm curious because I enjoy and believe in defensive basketball. I'd love to see the Rockets strike that balance between defensive juggernaut and offensive savant.

    That being said, I still believe we have time to get there with our current roster. I like this team and would be happy to let them stick it out for a couple years and see what happens. Heck, maybe someone can teach Ronnie Brewer how to hit a corner three B).

  • Forrest Walker says 10 months ago

    It's (hopefully) just growing pains. How many people went into the game suspecting that the Rockets would try to coast past a team with a bad record? They still have a tendency to get complacent, which is part of the double edged sword that is being a "fun" team. Yes, James Harden isn't alienating Dwight Howard the way Kobe did, but that fire to bring it to every team every day has to come from somewhere. The Jazz smelled blood and went into overdrive. They started getting open, they started getting confident, and then even when they weren't open they were hitting shots. This was the same game as the Sixers loss, essentially, and Houston' habit of playing down to worse teams is probably their biggest issue they have to address.

    Ugh. I just realized the Clippers games are the only times they lost to a team they were supposed to lose to. Way to be worse against worse teams consistently.

  • smeggysmeg says 10 months ago

    watching it again, the D is horrendous, don't even need to watch the offence that looks after itself

    they have zero idea what to do on pnr

    and don't even get me started on off the ball screens….

    pnr is an nba staple, i know the team is new but they have all seen it before….scheme, effort and execution all d-league standard on defense and right now a fatal flaw, they don't look like they have any desire to even be good at it, perhaps the wizards's stats say defense doesn't matter anymore

  • rockets best fan says 10 months ago

    I was pissed about this game tonight, but some of the post tonight have flipped me into defense mode. we are a newly assembled team searching for cohesion. all players and teams have bad games. I agree with 2016......we got a little to relaxed and got our butts whipped. lets hope there was a lesson learned, but I don't think it's time for us to start tossing dirt on this new Rocket's team at least until we have driven it around the block a few times. we stunk tonight......it's 1 game in a season of 82. now when we start to see a trend then it's time to get worried

  • rm90025 says 10 months ago

    the problem is neither Handsome Chandler or Jeremy help on the defensive end......

    the players are not great at defense, but our schemes are horrendous, although that is generous as really they are non existent......

    the pnr defense is frankly a joke and the worst in the NBA, nobody else allows middle penetration anywhere near enough... i'm sure that stats can prove me wrong but the pnr D feels like it is worse this year than last

    howard helps way to late and often at times comes over to swat when he has no chance and the next rotation is non existent

    chandler and harden have no idea off the ball, their position is dreadful and as such are never able to watch both ball and their player at the same time, this is a high school concept that they don't have :( (and to think there was a time in his rookie year that we thought Chandler was a good defender...... is this even possible)

    PBev tries hard, too hard and plays the pnr roll terribly, TJo plays 1on1 ok, and hard but off the ball is also clueless......

    How is it Cassapi who is not a great defender ends up looking like the one who has a degree of calmness and understanding of team defense

    right now, they either bring back JVG;) or its time to sacrifice some of the perimeter offense and risk messing with our alleged brilliant chemistry (not sure how it can be that good and play such bad team D) to bring in a serviceable 1/2/3 defender

    The Rockets are so deep that it can mask the team's flaws. Over a long NBA season, injuries and scheduling quirks impact the win-loss record which is why records don't always tell the real story of a team. When I watch the Rockets, Dwight Howard is making nice strides as a FT shooter but has not established himself as a dominant defender in the Rockets' system. James Harden is a great scorer, not a very good defender, and can settle too much for inefficient isolation ball. Patrick Beverley is not providing true added value at the point and is probably taking minutes away from players who would be more productive offensively and perhaps better or at least not worse defensively like Jeremy Lin, Aaron Brooks, Garcia, Casspi, among others.

    And I haven't even gotten to the misuse of Asik.

  • smeggysmeg says 10 months ago

    the problem is neither Handsome Chandler or Jeremy help on the defensive end......

    the players are not great at defense, but our schemes are horrendous, although that is generous as really they are non existent......

    the pnr defense is frankly a joke and the worst in the NBA, nobody else allows middle penetration anywhere near enough... i'm sure that stats can prove me wrong but the pnr D feels like it is worse this year than last

    howard helps way to late and often at times comes over to swat when he has no chance and the next rotation is non existent

    chandler and harden have no idea off the ball, their position is dreadful and as such are never able to watch both ball and their player at the same time, this is a high school concept that they don't have :( (and to think there was a time in his rookie year that we thought Chandler was a good defender...... is this even possible)

    PBev tries hard, too hard and plays the pnr roll terribly, TJo plays 1on1 ok, and hard but off the ball is also clueless......

    How is it Cassapi who is not a great defender ends up looking like the one who has a degree of calmness and understanding of team defense

    right now, they either bring back JVG;) or its time to sacrifice some of the perimeter offense and risk messing with our alleged brilliant chemistry (not sure how it can be that good and play such bad team D) to bring in a serviceable 1/2/3 defender

  • Steven says 10 months ago

    Wow you compare this team with bulls 72-10 team. You compare Phil with McHale. Wow

    No. Just using an extreme example to prove my point. Also the 2010-11 Heat started off like 9-8 or something. It's December. No one will remember this game come May or June, barring the Rockets don't miss out on home court by a game.
  • 2016Champions says 10 months ago

    Btw I called it! I said

    Alot of the thoughts in this write up feel like thoughts of my own, only better articulated, for example the part about Rockets possibly getting complacent and losing to the Jazz. Also the part about respecting Marvin Williams who has really been playing well lately. With the emergence of Trey Burke and Marvin, it becomes a lot harder to focus on Hayward who plays a lot better when all the focus isn't on him.

    We got complacent and lost. Hayward killed it tonight because we didn't have a game plan to stop only him, we had to worry about Burke and Marvin who have also been playing very well offensively.

  • 2016Champions says 10 months ago

    Jazz couldn't stop the pick and roll tonight, we would have won if we ran it more.

  • Red94 says 10 months ago New post: Utah Jazz 109, Houston Rockets 103: No Defence, No Deal.
    By: Rob Dover

    In their previous visit, the Rockets came to Utah on the second night of a back to back. They were visibly fatigued by the altitude and went down big in the first half before rallying back to claim the win in the second. Tonight they had an extra night to acclimatise, but they still looked slow in the thin air of Salt Lake City. Unfortunately this time they weren't able to overcome their early sluggishness, and a night of defensive leakiness cost them what should have been an easy win.

    • Parsons was kept out of the game last night after the back-spasms hit at the end of the San Antonio game, and he was sorely missed. Garcia got the start and was matched up against Haywood. Garcia carries a good defensive reputation after those excellent performances against Durant in the playoffs last season, but he really struggled to keep track of Haywood's off-ball movement here. I think he's probably better against slightly bigger opponents - it was the speed of Haywood that was making it tough for Garcia to keep up following him around screens and on quick cuts to the basket. Eventually McHale had to switch up the coverages and put Harden on Haywood instead - hardly an ideal state of affairs - and as you might expect he fared little better. Haywood torched the Rockets all game, ending with 29 points on 12 of 18 shooting.
    • It wasn't just the players guarding Haywood that were having a hard time. The whole team was really struggling defensively all the way through, with the pick-and-roll defence a major area for concern. The Trey Burke-Derrick Favors combination in particular was paying big dividends. Beverley and Howard did not seem to have a consistent defensive strategy against  it. I noticed a few times where they would set up to try to force baseline but end allow Burke to get to the middle, and others where Beverley would deny the middle but Howard would be out of position to prevent the baseline penetration. And sometimes they ended up switching, which left some pretty serious mismatches for Burke to exploit. Perhaps they were hoping that his inexperience would prevent him from taking advantage, but it didn't work out that way at all.
    • When Brooks and Asik took to the court at the start of the fourth quarter, they were much more consistent in forcing the Jazz baseline on the side pick-and-rolls and it seemed to work better. Brooks committed a lot more to keeping his man from getting to the middle. When Beverley tries to do this he always seems to get caught on the pick - I think his aggressive style of defence means he has a tendency to over-focus on his man and it really hampers his defence in this particular scenario.
    • The Rockets were within striking distance late in the game, but just couldn't get the stops they needed to steal the win. Burk(e)s Trey and Alex were consistently able to get free of Brooks and Beverley in the waning minutes and hit all their shots, and whenever they missed it seemed the Jazz were able to corral the offensive board. The bottom line is that the Rockets scored more than enough points to win this game, but their consistent inability to stay with their defensive assignments meant that it wasn't sufficient.
    • Harden's driving game was working really well tonight. The Jazz didn't have anyone who could stay in front of him and he was able to consistently scythe into the paint to get easy buckets at the rim. Often there's an element of awkwardness to his attacks, with limbs flying and whistles blowing. But tonight it looked smooth and effortless, a welcome reminder of how fun he can be to watch when he's on his game. It didn't even seem to matter that his three point shot wasn't falling, he could just glide to the basket regardless. 37 points and 8 assists were his final tally, and he earned them.
    • Often the problem when Harden is playing well is that there's a tendency for the rest of the team to stand around and watch rather than keeping the motion going in the offence. There were definitely a few times where you could see that happening this evening, but I think it's understandable in a game like today's - there was a little bit of altitude fatigue at work and the team was missing quite a lot of scoring in the absence of Parsons and Lin.
    • The Harden-Howard pick-and-roll did look great tonight when they ran it - I counted three effortless alley-oop jams for Howard. As the Utah commentators kept saying: "Why aren't they doing this every time?". Finding a way to unlock the potential of that duo on a more regular basis must be near the top of McHale's priority list.
    • Finally, on a non-Rockets note, I was really impressed by what I saw from Trey Burke tonight. He's going to have to play catch up with Carter-Williams and Oladipo if he wants to take home the Rookie-of-the-Year award, but on tonight's evidence that doesn't look beyond the realms of possibility. He reminded me a lot of Damien Lillard - he's got that same confidence to take an open shot if one presents itself and also has the balance and vision a point guard needs to deliver the ball on the money. I think he and Favors are going to form a pretty potent tandem in years to come.
  • datruth says 10 months ago

    Wow you compare this team with bulls 72-10 team. You compare Phil with McHale. Wow

  • Steven says 10 months ago

    Shows how much we need lin and especially parsons. Our rep took a hit tonight, and we can't say we are near elite yet.

    The 72-10 Bulls team lost to the expansion Raptors. It's the regular season. Unequal rest/ travel/ motivation leads to some particular results. Do agree about missing Parsons, tho.
  • Buckko says 10 months ago

    Shows how much we need lin and especially parsons. Our rep took a hit tonight, and we can't say we are near elite yet.

  • 2016Champions says 10 months ago

    Definitely a good writer, and with a few small tweaks I can see his write-ups getting more readers and the attention it deserves. Perhaps the use of photos and videos with captions below them, a hyperlink here and there referencing something that happened, not much unlike John Eby's write ups. But I'm just a man with an opinion lol

    Alot of the thoughts in this write up feel like thoughts of my own, only better articulated, for example the part about Rockets possibly getting complacent and losing to the Jazz. Also the part about respecting Marvin Williams who has really been playing well lately. With the emergence of Trey Burke and Marvin, it becomes a lot harder to focus on Hayward who plays a lot better when all the focus isn't on him.

  • NorEastern says 10 months ago

    I really do like your writing style. Very readable, and at times entertaining and thoughtful.