Jazz-Rockets Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Rockets were dominated by their last opponent's big men. They could face a similar challenge against the Utah Jazz.

The Rockets will try to win their third straight against the visiting Jazz on Sunday night.

Houston has struggled with consistency recently, losing three of four. Two of the defeats came to teams with losing records, including a 111-98 loss to Minnesota on Friday.

After surprising Western Conference-leader Oklahoma City with 96-95 win on Wednesday, the Rockets (17-14) had no answers for Minnesota's Kevin Love or Nikola Pekovic. Both players had double-doubles, combining for 63 points and 29 rebounds.

Houston gave up a season-high 64 points in the paint and was outrebounded 44-26 - its fewest rebounds of the season.

"They just kicked our tail," coach Kevin McHale said. "They just rolled us down, got inside of us. We didn't have contact with them - they just beat us up. Bottom line."

Leading scorer Kevin Martin also struggled. He finished with 16 points, but shot 4 of 11 and is averaging 12.0 points while shooting 38.6 percent the last nine games.

Houston didn't receive much help from its own big man in Luis Scola, who scored 10 points while playing a season-low 22 minutes. He didn't play any better against Marc Gasol and Memphis on Tuesday, totaling nine points and five rebounds.

The Rockets will face another challenge Sunday trying to contain Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Millsap in particular has played well against Houston, recording four consecutive double-doubles while averaging 27.3 points the last three meetings.

Jefferson and Millsap are both coming off good individual performances. Each had a double-double in Utah's 114-100 victory over Washington on Friday when Jefferson scored a season-high 34 points and had 12 rebounds while Millsap finished 14 and 12, respectively.

The Jazz (15-14) had lost four of six before Friday, averaging 89.5 points over those six games. However, taking advantage of one of the NBA's worst teams, they scored 62 first-half points Friday and shot 52.8 percent overall.

Jefferson, who scored 29 points the previous two games, nearly surpassed that total in the first half Friday with 26 on 12-of-15 shooting.

"We didn't have any fight against him in the first half," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "He did whatever he wanted with the ball. And we didn't really seem to let it bother us."

The Jazz will try to carry over the performance to their next contest, but they haven't won consecutive games since Jan. 28 and 30. They also haven't played well on the road, going 3-9 while dropping six of their last seven away from home.

"We have to focus," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Continue to work. We have to make sure we understand why were good tonight and it's because we did a great job on the defensive end of the floor."

Despite strong performances by Millsap, Martin has led the Rockets to back-to-back wins over the Jazz. He has three 30-point performances in his last six games against the Jazz, averaging 28.2 points.

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