Rockets-Jazz Preview


A pair of close defeats have the Utah Jazz on the brink of their worst start in 34 years.

Facing the Houston Rockets isn't likely to help.

The Jazz will try to avoid opening a season with a third straight loss Saturday night and prevent the Rockets from their best start in five years.

Utah (0-2) opened the season with a 101-98 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, and followed that with a much tougher defeat two days later. The Jazz surrendered the decisive 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to fall 87-84 at Phoenix.

Now, they're facing the possibility of starting a season with a three-game losing streak for the first time since going 0-4 in 1979-80 and recent matchups with the Rockets (2-0) haven't brought favorable results.

Utah has dropped three straight versus Houston by an average of 20.0 points. Snapping the streak might be even more important since the Jazz begin a four-game road trip Tuesday in Brooklyn before visiting Boston, Chicago and Toronto.

Coach Tyrone Corbin thinks improving the basics could get his team headed in the right direction after Utah totaled 43 turnovers while going 37 for 57 from the line through the first two games.

"And we missed our free throws," Corbin said. "We missed 10 again (Friday) so we've got to get better at those things. Young guys or whatever, we have to make free throws and we can't turn the ball over."

Derrick Favors has been a major culprit, coughing the ball up 10 times while sinking 5 of 9 free throws in two games, undermining his 29 points and 26 rebounds. The forward, who is stepping into a starting role, wasn't much of a factor in three meetings with the Rockets last season, averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 boards.

He's likely to find things much tougher under the basket dealing with Dwight Howard, who has 30 points and 42 rebounds through two games.

The All-Star center had 16 boards and 13 points Friday, while James Harden poured in 34 on 11-of-17 shooting in Houston's 113-105 victory over Dallas.

Harden has picked up where he left off last season, when he averaged a career-high 25.9 points per game after being acquired in a trade from Oklahoma City.

The Rockets hope the addition of Howard will help make them a championship contender after he had a disappointing stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard's career-long struggles from the free-throw line have followed him to Houston. He missed his first six from the line against the Mavericks before finishing 5 of 12.

"I've just got to make them," said Howard, who averages 19.4 points and 12.4 rebounds in seven visits to Salt Lake City.

Houston seeks its first 3-0 start since 2008-09 and consecutive victories in Utah for the first time since a three-game win streak in 1993.

Harden is averaging 24.0 points over the past three meetings with the Jazz, including a 25-point performance on 8 of 15 from the floor in a 125-80 victory in the most recent meeting in Utah on Jan. 28.