Jazz Return From Break Against Decimated Rockets
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz begin the second half of the regular season Friday night when they face a decimated Houston Rockets team.
The Jazz own the best record in the NBA at 27-9 but lost three of their final four games heading into the All-Star break. As a result, the Jazz sit just two games ahead of the Phoenix Suns for the top seed in the Western Conference.
The Rockets meanwhile have lost 14 consecutive games and enter their matchup with the Jazz on the second night of back-to-back games with only eight healthy bodies.
Jazz Look To Regain Momentum
The Jazz saw their momentum screech to a halt during their four-game road trip to close the first half of the regular season.
The team lost close games to the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, and Philadelphia 76ers heading into the break lessening their lead over the Western Conference.
The Jazz loss in Philadelphia was particularly difficult, falling in overtime to the East-leading 76ers with guard Donovan Mitchell earning his first career ejection for arguing with officials.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were fined for their comments about NBA officials after the @Utahjazz loss to the 76ers on Wednesday.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) March 5, 2021
After the game, Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley all expressed their frustrations with what they viewed as unequal officiating towards their roster. Both Mitchell and Gobert were later fined.
Upon retaking the floor Jazz fans will see three new additions to the team. First, the Jazz will wear their ree “Earned” uniforms for the first time this season. Second, Vivint Arena will allow 5,600 fans at Vivint Arena against the rockets, the fullest it has been this season. And third, forward Ersan Ilyasova is expected to be in uniform after signing with the team on Wednesday.
Rockets Face Uphill Battle
The Rockets were already scuffling heading into the All-Star break having lost 13 consecutive games.
Then, before Houston’s game against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday guard John Wall suffered a knee injury in practice that ruled him out against the Jazz. During the Rockets 125-105 loss to the Kings, guard Eric Gordon suffered a lower-body injury that will prevent him from playing in Utah.
On Friday, the team announced Victor Oladipo would miss the game as he rests his rehabbing knee on the second night of back-to-back games.
More bad news for the Rockets: Coach Stephen Silas said Eric Gordon would get an MRI to determine the severity of his groin injury, but the guard has already been ruled out of Friday's game in Utah. Houston expects to have only the minimum eight players available vs. Jazz.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 12, 2021
During their matchup with Sacramento, it was announced Houston forward PJ Tucker wouldn’t return to the team as he hopes to be traded to a Finals contender.
As a result, the Rockets will face the Jazz with the league’s minimum requirement of eight players assuming all players are cleared to play after their gameday COVID-19 screenings return.
With Wall, Oladipo, Gordon, and Christian Wood expected to miss Friday’s game, the Rockets will be without their four leading scorers when they face the Jazz.
The key matchup between the Jazz and Rockets will pit Mitchell against the Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr.
Porter Jr. made his Rockets debut against the Kings and scored 13 points, handed out 10 assists, and grabbed three rebounds in the loss. The guard had been in Orlando competing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers during the shortened G League season prior to the All-Star break.
Tuff 😤 pic.twitter.com/6awCBeQcH7
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 12, 2021
Mitchell meanwhile is averaging 24.7 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 38 percent from the three-point line.
The Jazz and Rockets tip-off at 8 pm MT and will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.
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