The Utah Jazz are nearly unbeatable at the Delta Center.
They’ll now try to improve their play away from home as they visit the Toyota Center to face the Houston Rockets for the second time in a week.
The Jazz, who are 9-1 at the Delta Center, have won just one of six games on the road and will be playing away from home for the first time since Nov. 16.
Utah won five of six on a recent homestand, including a 91-84 victory against the defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets on Monday night.
“At home, we are feeling so comfortable,” said Jazz point guard Raul Lopez, who had eight points and four assists against the Nets. “Now on the road we need to play like this.”
DeShawn Stevenson and Andrei Kirilenko led five Jazz players in double figures with 18 points apiece. Kirilenko also had 10 rebounds. Greg Ostertag, benched last Friday for arguing with coach Jerry Sloan, had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Matt Harpring added 16 points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Utah held a crucial edge in rebouding, outgaining the Nets 51-25.
“I’ve always said, You look at teams that are competitive, they have to rebound,” Sloan said.
But accomplishing that against Houston and 7-6 center Yao Ming could prove difficult.
While Yao’s 9.8 rebounds a game is just a shade over Osterag’s 9.3, he holds a four-inch height advantage.
Yao had 19 points and nine rebounds in the Rockets’ 95-88 loss to Seattle on Monday. The Sonics forced Yao into a more physical game, and the stratey worked.
“I was worn out. I was beaten up,” Yao said through a translator.
Steve Francis had a team-high 28 points, but only four in the fourth quarter—all on free throws. Houston held a three-point haltime lead, but made just one field goal in a 14-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters.
The Rockets welcome the return to the Toyota Center after going 1-4 on their recent road trip, with the lone win against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. Houston has won four straight at home with its last there a 79-71 defeat to Memphis on Nov. 1.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 1): Jazz - 2nd place (tied), 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Rockets - 4th place, 1 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Jazz - Kirilenko, 17.4 ppg; Ostertag, 9.3 rpg; Carlos Arroyo, 6.1 apg. Rockets - Francis, 18.5 ppg and 4.7 apg; Yao, 9.7 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Jazz, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 26; Jazz, 83-76. At Utah, Kirilenko scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and had five blocks. Lopez and Mo Williams filled in for injured point guard Arroyo and scored 10 points apiece.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jazz - 1-5 on the road; Rockets - 5-1 at home.