NBA Thursday Betting Preview: Utah Jazz vs Houston Rockets

We can all stop worrying about how James Harden and Chris Paul will coexist in Houston. The Rockets have gone 7-0 since Paul returned to the line-up on November 16th, and have outscored opponents by 22 points per game during that stretch. The offensive explosion isn’t altogether surprising. What is truly shocking is the efficiency of Houston’s D. The Rockets rank in the top five in the NBA in defensive rating, defensive rebounding percentage, and steals, and have been holding opponents to 102.7 points per game this season.

Chalk it up to improved communication and the maturation of Clint Capela, who has blossomed into a genuine two-way force during his fourth year in the league. The Swiss big man presently ranks second in defensive rebound percentage and eighth in Player Impact Estimate, the hip new aggregate that measures player efficiency. The Rockets have also benefitted from the seamless integration of Luc Mbah a Moute, who ranks ninth in defensive rating and has posted an obscene +132 net rating during the team’s recent winning streak. At this point, you could put him on the court with four under-ripened grapefruits and he’d still post a positive plus/minus.

Utah has been enjoying a hot stretch of its own over the past two weeks. The Jazz are 7-3 in their last ten games, and put on a performance for the ages on Monday night when they pulverized the Wizards 116-69 in Salt Lake City. Utah held Washington to 28.8-percent shooting from the field and 20-percent from behind the arc, while displaying the kind of crisp passing and constant motion that have been the hallmarks of their recent streak.

One of the keys to Utah’s resurgence has been Donovan Mitchell, who recently became the first rookie since Blake Griffin to drop 40 points in a game. The Louisville product is averaging 17.2 PPG and has scored 20 or more points ten times this season. The Jazz will need all of his scoring  — and then some — to have any shot of keeping up with the Rockets tonight.

Utah Jazz vs Houston Rockets Team Stats

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

Recent Results

JAZZ: The Jazz lost to the Thunder 100-94 on Tuesday night thanks to a stellar effort from OKC’s Big Three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, who combined for 69 points, 24 rebounds, and 16 assists. Steven Adams also contributed 20 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder. Rookie Donovan Mitchell led the way for the Jazz with 31 points, thereby becoming the first Utah rookie since Darrell Griffith to score 20 or more points in four consecutive games.

Utah led by eight at the half, but fell apart late and was outscored by 32-14 during the game’s final frame. Oklahoma City also dominated the glass, out-rebounding Utah 46-35.

ROCKETS: James Harden scored 36 and Eric Gordon chipped in with 22 off the bench as the Rockets cruised to an easy 118-95 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday. Houston forced 21 turnovers and led by as many as 24 points in the fourth, before taking their foot off the gas. Rookie Kyle Kuzma led the way for the Lakers, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the final quarter.

Head-to-Head Results

James Harden scored a career-high 56 points in just 35 minutes as Houston beat Utah 137-110 during their first meeting of the season. The five-time All-Star was 7-for-7 from behind the arc and came within one basket of breaking Calvin Murphy’s franchise record for most points in a game. Eric Gordon called it one of the best performances he had ever seen, and Trevor Ariza said Harden was completely unguardable. “I don’t think there’s any defense for him, period,” he said afterwards. “When he’s on, what can you do? Two people can’t guard him when he’s on like that.”

Donovan Mitchell paced the Jazz with 17 points off the bench and Rudy Gobert contributed 13 points and a season-low five boards.

Notable Injuries and Absences

JAZZ: Dante Exum, Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood

Point guard Dante Exum is recovering from surgery to repair his separated left shoulder. The Jazz have not announced a timeline for his return. Forward Joe Johnson is expected to miss another two weeks with an injury to his right wrist. Guard Rodney Hood has missed five consecutive games with a sore left ankle. He is listed as day-to-day.

ROCKETS: Troy Williams, Zhou Qi

Forward Troy Williams is dealing with a sprained right knee, and forward Zhou Qi is nursing a sore left calf. Neither player will accompany the Rockets during their current road trip.

Betting the Moneyline

BEST JAZZ MONEYLINE: +195

You can find this moneyline at BetOnline.ag.

BEST ROCKETS MONEYLINE: -225

This moneyline is available at SportsBetting.ag.

JAZZ STRAIGHT UP TRENDS

  • Utah is 11-4 SU at home this season
  • Utah is 7-3 SU in their last 10 games
  • Utah is 8-6 SU against the Western Conference
  • Utah is 5-6 SU after a loss this season
  • Utah is 4-8 SU on one day of rest this season

 

ROCKETS STRAIGHT UP TRENDS

  • Houston is 10-1 SU on the road this season
  • Houston is 9-1 SU in their last 10 games
  • Houston is 9-2 SU against the Western Conference
  • Houston is 13-3 SU after a win this season
  • Houston is 5-0 SU on two to three days of rest this season

 

EXPERT MONEYLINE ADVICE: ROCKETS (-225)

Utah has no answer for the dynamic duo of Harden and Paul, who have led Houston to an 8-0 record this season and are posting an excellent 10.7 net rating in the nearly 19 minutes they share the court. The two All-Stars seem to have an intuitive understanding of how and when to set one another up, and routinely make defenders break out into cold sweats every time they run the pick and roll.

As good as they’ve been together, Harden and Paul have actually been even better apart. The Rockets have a remarkable 43.9 net rating when Paul plays and Harden sits, and a 32.7 net rating when Harden plays and Paul takes a breather. Mike D’Antoni’s ability to stagger his two stars means Houston never has to ease up or waste a possession. That’s bad news for Utah, and the other 28 teams they’ll face for the remainder of the season.

The Rockets may eventually come back to earth, but it won’t be against the Jazz. Taking Houston may be the easiest – and wisest – decision you make all day.

Eric Gordon has been a big part of Houston’s success since moving back to the bench. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Betting Against the Spread

BEST JAZZ SPREAD: +6.5 (-110)

This spread is available at MyBookie.ag, as well as a host of other sites.

BEST ROCKETS SPREAD: – 6 (-110)

You can get this spread at GT Bets. 

JAZZ AGAINST THE SPREAD TRENDS 

  • Utah is 14-11 ATS this season
  • Utah is 10-5 ATS at home this season
  • Utah is 8-6 as an underdog this season
  • Utah covers ATS 56-percent of the time
  • Utah is riding a seven-game ATS winning streak

ROCKETS AGAINST THE SPREAD TRENDS 

  • Houston is 13-9 ATS this season
  • Houston is 8-3 ATS on the road this season
  • Houston is 12-8 as a favorite this season
  • Houston covers ATS 59.1 percent of the time
  • Houston is riding a two-game ATS winning streak

 

EXPERT AGAINST THE SPREAD ADVICE: ROCKETS (-6)

The spread opened at a miniscule Houston -3.5 on Wednesday morning and has been rising steadily ever since. If you managed to secure those odds, you can sit back and enjoy tonight’s game, worrying more about whether you have enough Cheez Doodles than whether the Rockets will cover. If not, you can still feel reasonably confident with the -6 spread available at GTBets.  The Rockets beat the Jazz by 27 points in their previous meeting and have been firing on all cylinders since. They also haven’t played since Sunday night, and will likely be far fresher than Utah, who duked it out with the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. It’s worth noting that Houston is unbeaten after 2-3 days off, while Utah is just 4-8 on one day of rest.

Game Total Betting

BEST OVER ODDS: 208.5 (-116)

You can find these odds at BetOnline.ag.

BEST UNDER ODDS: 208.5 (-104)

You can find these odds at BetOnline.ag.

JAZZ TOTALS TRENDS

  • Utah is 11-13-1 O/U this season

ROCKETS TOTALS TRENDS

  • Houston is 9-13 O/U this season

EXPERT TOTALS ADVICE: OVER 208.5 (-110)

The Rockets and Jazz combined for 247 points when they the first time this season on November 5th. It’s unlikely Harden will make his first ten shots or drop 56 points again, but there’s reason to believe this will be another high-scoring affair. For starters, Houston is averaging 114.1 points per game, and has scored 117 points or more in six of the last seven games. Utah has also caught fire of late, and has scored 110 or more points in five of its last six games.

The presence of Paul, who was absent from the first meeting, should also give Houston’s offense a boost. CP3 is averaging 12.4 points and 9.8 assists per game and is among the league leaders in plus/minus. His ability to drain threes and get others involved makes Houston virtually impossible to slow down.

This game will likely be well over the projected point total, so pounce on these odds while you still can.

Additional SU Picks

Utah vs Houston is just one of four games on tap on Thursday night. Here are our other three straight up picks.