The Utah Jazz used a big second-half effort to knock off Houston less than two weeks ago, but the Rockets have undergone a major makeover since then.
It took until Houston’s latest game to show it might be a good one.
Kevin Martin(notes) delivered his best performance in a Rockets uniform his last time out, and he’ll look to lead visiting Houston to rare back-to-back wins on Saturday night as the Jazz try to avoid their third loss in four games.
Utah (37-21) got 41 combined points from Mehmet Okur(notes) and Paul Millsap(notes) to earn a come-from-behind 104-95 road win over the Rockets on Feb. 16—the 13th victory in 14 games for Jerry Sloan’s team.
That was part of a miserable stretch of six losses in seven games for Houston (29-28), with the last three coming after the blockbuster trade that saw Tracy McGrady(notes) and Carl Landry(notes) exit in a three-way trade that sent Martin to the Rockets.
Landry’s instant energy was missed as Houston lost by an average of 12.0 points, and Martin struggled from outside, averaging 15.3 points but shooting 31.0 percent.
Martin was 9 of 24 Friday in his second start in place of the injured Trevor Ariza(notes), but made all 14 free-throw attempts. He finished with 33 points, Aaron Brooks(notes) had 31 and Luis Scola(notes) added 30 points and 13 rebounds in a 109-104 win over San Antonio.
“The guys who have been here before him could finally make him comfortable and can find a way that he likes playing where he feels more effective and we need him scoring,” Scola said. “That’s the truth. So, if he feels comfortable, everything else will be easier for us.”
Martin, who averaged 28.3 points in his last six games against Utah while with Sacramento, saw plenty of progress.
“It’s getting there,” Martin said. “… Over time, you get better and more comfortable with the team. It’s only four games and I just feel good to be here.”
The Jazz come having lost two of three after being unable to handle Martin’s old team. Deron Williams(notes) was held to 10 points on 4 of 16 shooting - part of a 40.9 percent night for Utah - in a 103-99 loss to the Kings on Friday.
Sacramento, meanwhile, shot 54.5 percent. Atlanta shot 54.2 percent in knocking off the Jazz on Monday in Salt Lake City.
“Well, you have to make shots and we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Sloan said. “They made it tough on us, kept us on the perimeter and we seemed to enjoy it out there.”
Williams had 13 assists Friday - his eighth straight game in double digits - but his scoring has taken a hit lately as he’s battled a bruised right quad and adjusted to playing without Ronnie Brewer(notes), who was shipped to Memphis last week.
Williams has averaged 14.3 points on 31.1 percent shooting over his last four games. When Williams scores fewer than 20 points, the Jazz are just 16-13.
He’s averaged 17.5 points in the two meetings against Houston this season, but shot 6 of 20 and fouled out as the Rockets cruised to a 113-96 win at EnergySolutions Arena on Nov. 2.
Carlos Boozer(notes) was just 1 of 6 and scored seven points in that loss, and he’s been outplayed by Scola head to head. Boozer has averaged 9.5 points and 4.0 turnovers, while Scola has averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Ariza (hip flexor) will sit again as Houston looks to win back-to-back games for just the third time since Jan. 1.