Houston Rockets (24-22) vs. Utah Jazz (24-20)
When you think Utah Jazz, slow and plodding and pick and roll come to mind. While some of these perceptions of who the Jazz are may no longer be true -- they actually run the fewest pick and rolls in the league according to some estimations -- the Jazz are still built around one, sometimes seemingly outdated truth:
If you get the ball inside to the post, good things will happen.
And indeed, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap manning the inside, good things have happened for Utah as the team is in the thick of the Playoff hunt once again. Whether the Jazz stay there might depend on what they do at the trade deadline. But that is another post.
Utah is 19th in the league in pace at about 91.4 possessions per game. Houston is on the opposite end of that spectrum.
The Rockets are tops in the league in pace with 96.2 possessions per game. Guys like Jeremy Lin and James Harden want to push the ball up the floor. Houston is the one team in the league determined to simply outscore you. And with Harden maintaining his efficiency despite getting more minutes, it has absolutely worked.
The Rockets have Omer Asik as a defensive rim protector, but they will spread the floor with a host of stretch-4s like Chandler Parsons and Marcus Morris to keep defenses spread out and give Harden plenty of room to work.
Who would have thought the king of the post game, Kevin McHale, would be their coach?
Other Storylines to Watch
-Yao Ming is sort of the Godfather of Chinese basketball and he has, in fact, formed a relationship with Jeremy Lin, the Chinese-American star that took both the U.S. and China by storm last year. Yao told the Washington Post that he thinks Houston is a great place for the young point guard to develop.
-Utah has needed some help at guard since Mo Williams went out with an injury. The Jazz have been using Randy Foye and Jamaal Tinsley at that spot. The two are averaging a combined 15.7 points per game and 8.2 assists per game.
Tonight's Other Games
Golden State Warriors (26-17) vs. Toronto Raptors (16-28)
Very quietly, Andrew Bogut has made his way back from injury. In fact, Bogut could be set to make his season debut for the Warriors tonight. Everyone forgets because of his assorted injuries how skilled Bogut can be as a post player and passer. His return will be slow though as All-Star David Lee has done a good job manning the pivot.
Memphis Grizzlies (28-15) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (18-25)
Rudy Gay is done dealing with trade rumors and has said he is going to brush them off and do what he can for the team he is playing for now. That will not stop the trade rumors from flowing. With Rajon Rondo's injury in Boston, the heat has intensified on a potential Paul Pierce-for-Rudy Gay swap.
Sacramento Kings (16-29) vs. Washington Wizards (11-31)
Bradley Beal has comeo n strong lately as the Wizards have climbed out of the gutter and actually passed the Bobcats in the Southeast Division. Beal though is dealing with an injury to his wrist. He emerged from the game agains tthe Bulls this weekend wearing a protective brace on his right wrist. Whatever he needs to do to protect that shooting hand. Beal might be making a midseason push for Rookie of the Year.
Orlando Magic (14-29) vs. Brooklyn Nets (26-18)
J.J. Redick is going to be one of the hottest names bandied about at the trade deadline. And for good reason. Redick poured in 31 points and made 8 3-pointers in a grand display of his shooting. These past few weeks, the Amway Center has been a hotspot for opposing scouts and they have been very blunt, telling several media outlets that they are there to see Redick.
Charlotte Bobcats (11-32) vs. Chicago Bulls (26-17)
The Bulls astonishingly have not really missed a beat without Derrick Rose. They are in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff race and are showing no signs of slowing down. Adding Rose back could put them back near the top, right? That certainly seems to be the feeling. Joakim Noah described the team as a team of fighters and they are going to scratch and claw with Rose and now Luol Deng out.
Indiana Pacers (26-18) vs. Denver Nuggets (27-18)
We are in full 10-day contract mode. The Pacers recently decided to let Dominic McGuire go without renewing his 10-day contract. They are expected to sign Sam Young. McGuire failed to score in playing 12 total minutes for Indiana, including a start against Charlotte on Jan. 12. He previously played nine games with the Hornets and 15 games for the Raptors this season.