The Houston Rockets are battling for playoff positioning in the Western Conference as they close the regular season with a home contest on Wednesday against the Utah Jazz. Trying to figure out how it will all play out is confusing for MVP candidate James Harden.
“I don’t even look at it,” Harden told reporters. “All of the teams are basically tied and it will come down to the final game – and we still many not know until all of the games are over.” The Rockets are battling the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies for the Southwest Division title and those two teams are also in the mix for the second and third spots in the West, along with the Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. Utah has no such headaches as the Jazz will fail to make the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons. The Jazz have won seven or their last nine games after cruising to a 109-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ROOT (Houston, Utah)
ABOUT THE JAZZ (38-43): Rookie Bryce Cotton is seeing extended playing time with point guard Trey Burke (back) ailing and is making the most of his opportunity. Cotton scored a season-best 21 points in 26 minutes against the Mavericks and the Providence product has scored in double digits in three straight games. “You get excited about his potential. He is a unique guy,” Utah coach Quin Snyder told reporters. “He’s not a big guy, but he is quick and he is tough and he plays hard and I think everybody could feel and see what we saw (Monday) and I think, whatever the future holds, he is certainly showing that he is capable of playing in the league.”
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (55-26): Houston probably saw its chances to land the No. 2 spot evaporate when it lost back-to-back games to the San Antonio Spurs. “We went through a slump,” swingman Corey Brewer told reporters. “Guys were a little injured and now we are healthy. The playoffs are coming, so we have to be on our game.” The Rockets have won their last two games, including a 100-90 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.
1. Houston is 2-1 against the Jazz this season, including a 97-82 home win on Jan. 10.
2. Utah SF Gordon Hayward (Achilles) will likely sit out his second consecutive game.
3. Rockets C Dwight Howard (rest) was held out of Monday’s game but is expected to play against the Jazz.
PREDICTION: Rockets 105, Jazz 101