Rockets at Jazz
The Houston Rockets own the best record in the Western Conference and are winners of seven in a row as they fire away from 3-point range and race past opponents. The Utah Jazz, who host the Rockets on Thursday, occasionally look like a team capable of challenging Houston but struggle to find their highest gear with consistency.
The Rockets breezed to a 118-95 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday and won their last seven games by an average of 21.6 points but are still looking for ways to improve. "It sounds crazy, but I don't think we played well, up to our standards," point guard Chris Paul told reporters after the win over the Lakers. "As far as the turnovers and our defense giving up offensive rebounds, we're capable of a lot more. Going into every game, it's about us. We've just got to continue to get better." The Jazz had a six-game winning streak come to an end with a 100-94 loss at Oklahoma City on Tuesday while playing the second night of a back-to-back. "I thought our guys ran out of steam a bit, just emotionally," Utah coach Quin Snyder told reporters. "We've got to be able to play through that."
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston)
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (18-4): Houston's winning streak coincides with the return of Paul from a knee injury, and the veteran point guard is working his way seamlessly into an offense still led by James Harden. Harden became an MVP candidate while serving as a point guard last season and still manages to share the responsibility of running the offense with Paul on the floor. Harden is averaging 33.9 points and 8.6 assists in the seven games since Paul's return and continues to lead the NBA in scoring (31.7 points) while ranking second in assists (9.7) heading into play on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE JAZZ (13-12): Utah was coming off one of its best performances of the season - a 116-69 home win over Washington - on Monday and owned a 17-point, second-half lead in Oklahoma City on Tuesday before running out of gas. The Jazz averaged 115.5 points during the six-game streak but missed the century mark and shot 43 percent from the floor against the Thunder. One player that did not fall off the pace offensively was rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored 31 points in the loss and is averaging 29.3 over the last four games.
1. Rockets PF Ryan Anderson (back) was limited to 12 minutes at Los Angeles on Sunday and is day-to-day.
2. Jazz C Rudy Gobert is averaging 4.5 points and eight rebounds in two games since returning from a knee injury.
3. Harden scored a career-high 56 points while leading Houston to a 137-110 home win over Utah on Nov. 5.