Jazz-Rockets preview

Winners of six in a row at home, the Utah Jazz simply want to keep their momentum going tonight when they play host to the Houston Rockets at EnergySolutions Arena.

The Jazz (24-20) matched their season-best home winning streak on Saturday when they held on to beat the Indiana Pacers in overtime.

Overall, Utah has won seven of its last 10 games.

Center Al Jefferson, averaging 17.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, is coming off a 25-point effort against Indiana. Teammate Paul Millsap, who averages 14.8 points and 7.7 boards, had 21 points and five steals against the Pacers.

Bench star Gordon Hayward (13.5 points, 2.5 assists) suffered a right shoulder injury late in the Indiana game and is out for tonight.

“I knew something happened right when I got hit,” Hayward said after Monday’s morning shootaround. “I just finished out the play and I needed a sub.”

“I can do everything, it’s just kind of sore. It’s just very sore and kind of stiff,” he added. “Hopefully with some treatment it’ll be better.”

Hayward, 22, has never suffered this type of injury before.

“It’s the first time it’s happened,” he said. “I think it was just a hard hit on it. I think it’ll be fine.”

Hayward has been effective as Utah’s offensive spark coming off the bench. If he can’t play tonight the Jazz likely will use DeMarre Carroll to pick up the slack.

Carroll is an aggressive defensive player but can add offensive production if needed.

“(Hayward) was a key to the bench,” Carroll said. “I think we’re just going to have to pound the ball inside now. Guys have got to step up.”

The Rockets (24-22) are in third place in the NBA’s Southwest Division. They are led by guard James Harden, who averages 26 points, 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Houston recently went through a seven-game losing streak but has won three of its last four, including 119-106 home victory over Brooklyn last Saturday.

The Jazz and Rockets have met twice already this season, with each team earning a win at home.

The Jazz won Nov. 19 in Salt Lake City but Harden scored only six points in 17 minutes of work because he was dealing with an upper-respiratory infection. He bounced back to score 18 in a 124-116 win in Houston on Dec. 1.



About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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