Jazz-Rockets Preview

The Associated PressDecember 1, 2012

James Harden's worst offensive performance for the Houston Rockets came last week against the Utah Jazz.

His latest display wasn't much better, but a home-heavy stretch could be just what he needs.

Harden tries to bounce back and lead the Rockets to a fifth straight home win Saturday night against the Jazz.

Harden is among the NBA's scoring leaders at 24.5 points per game, but he mustered a season-low six points while going 1 for 6 from the floor in a 102-91 loss at Utah (9-8) on Nov. 19.

He struggled again in his first road game since, missing 13 of 16 field goals as the Rockets fell 120-98 to Oklahoma City on Wednesday - hours after the team attended the funeral of coach Kevin McHale's daughter, Sasha, in Minneapolis.

Harden, who finished with 17 points in his first game against his former team, has made just 30.3 percent of his shots while averaging 18.0 points during Houston's five-game road losing streak.

Fortunately for the league's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, six of the Rockets' next seven games are at home.

Harden is scoring 28.8 points per game on 50.0 percent shooting - 11 for 27 from beyond the arc - during his team's four-game winning streak at the Toyota Center.

Houston (7-8) last won five in a row at home Jan. 13-21, a run that was largely fueled by solid defense. The Rockets' latest streak has been all about offensive efficiency, as they're averaging 110.3 points and shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range.

"Our offense is getting better because we're moving the ball better," acting coach Kelvin Sampson told the team's official website. "We're having more pass-pass combinations where we're attacking the paint with the dribble, drawing two guys, hitting the open guy, then that guy is making the extra pass. That's why our shooting percentage is going up."

The Rockets are hoping for a lift with the potential return of second-leading scorer Chandler Parsons (15.7 ppg), who missed Wednesday's loss with a right shoulder injury.

"I'm basically just really sore," said Parsons, who's averaged 21.0 points and hit 15 of 30 3-pointers in his last five home games. "I think it won't get worse (by playing). I think it's all about what I can tolerate, just being able to play through screens and rebound and play defense and do all the physical things.

"I really want to play, I feel like the team needs me and I want to be out there with them, so I'm doing whatever I can to get back as soon as possible."

Parsons had 11 points and 10 boards against the Jazz last week, making 3 of 11 field goals.

Poor shooting has been a theme for the Rockets during a three-game skid versus Utah, connecting on 36.5 percent from the floor - 26.6 from beyond the arc.

Just like Houston, the Jazz are looking to bounce back from a loss at Oklahoma City, falling 106-94 on Friday after opening this three-game trip with a 96-84 victory over New Orleans two days earlier.

Utah may be without Marvin Williams for a second straight game since he's been diagnosed with concussion symptoms. The forward, who is traveling with the team, is averaging 10.4 points, and has managed 14.6 over his last five meetings with Houston.

Enes Kanter mustered six points and eight rebounds against the Rockets last week. However, he's coming off his best performance of the season, getting 18 points with seven boards while making 8 of 11 field goals.

Utah has outscored Houston in the paint by an average of 15.4 points in the series' last three games.