Houston (2-1) at Utah (1-1)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Salt Lake City, UT
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Mon Nov 2, 2009
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The new-look Houston Rockets used an up-tempo style to win their home opener. It remains to be seen if that approach will change their usual results in Salt Lake City.

The Rockets will try to earn a rare road win over the Utah Jazz as the teams meet Monday night, with Utah looking to tighten up its defense after struggling to start the season.

With Ron Artest(notes) gone and Yao Ming(notes) and Tracy McGrady(notes) out with injuries, other players have stepped up for Houston (2-1).

Newcomer Trevor Ariza(notes) scored a career-high 33 points in a 111-107 win over Portland in the Rockets’ first home game Saturday. Point guard Aaron Brooks(notes) sparked his team’s fast-paced attack with 28 points and eight assists.

“We’ve got a pretty young team and we’ve got a bunch of new faces on this team so the scouting report is not that big,” said reserve Carl Landry(notes), who scored 16 points. “We’ve got guys that are hungry who are going out there every night and fighting hard to get us in the ‘W’ column.”

One of them is Ariza, who won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers last season before switching places with Artest through free agency.

Ariza is shooting 52.4 percent (11 of 21) from 3-point range and averaging 23.3 points in his first three contests with his new team, as his game seems to be working well with Houston’s quicker style.

“If that’s what it takes for us to win then that is how we need to play,” Ariza said. “No matter how tired we are, no matter what the situation is or what the odds are. If we want to win, we have to play that way every night.”

It may be tougher to run against the Jazz at Salt Lake City’s high altitude, but few strategies have worked for the Rockets in Utah. Houston has lost three straight and 21 of its last 24 at EnergySolutions Arena dating to 1997, not including a 2-10 postseason record there in that stretch.

The Jazz (1-1) have been especially tough at home recently, going 102-22 since the start of the 2006-07 season.

They beat the Los Angeles Clippers 111-98 in their home opener Friday, but weren’t thrilled after allowing 84 points in the first three quarters and trailing by one entering the fourth.

Utah, which came into the season with a renewed focus on defense, also struggled to slow down Denver in a season-opening 114-105 loss, but held the Clippers to 3 of 11 from the field in the final 12 minutes.

“That’s what we need to see more out of us,” forward Paul Millsap(notes) said. “We’re capable of doing that night in and night out. We need to continue to execute and get stops on the defensive end.”

The Jazz hope to have Mehmet Okur(notes) back in the lineup after the center missed Friday’s game with a sprained ankle.

The Rockets’ defensive focus will likely be on point guard Deron Williams(notes), who averaged 22.8 points and 12.0 assists in four games against Houston last season.

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Monday, Nov 2