The Pick: Rockets 96-86
Eventually, the road teams are going to start winning games, and this game is a great place to start. The Rockets have looked every bit as good as the hype-machine projected, as they have been dominate on the glass (50-plus rebounds in both games this year) and James Harden is doing what James Harden does (27.5 points per game while making 14-of-15 free throws and shooting 68.4 percent from inside the three-point line).
The Rockets have scored 219 points thus far, and that is without Chandler Parsons (15.5 points and two made three-pointers per game last season) finding any sort of rhythm (0-for-8 from distance). Francisco Garcia has been a big reason that this offense has been effective so far, as he is averaging over 20 points per game and leads the team with a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Jazz rank as the second-best rebounding team in the league through two games, and while Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are nice players, I don’t expect them to have a ton of interior success against Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. Not only do I expect them to struggle offensively, but the Rockets are likely to pound the rock, and without much frontcourt depth, the Jazz aren’t ready for a heavy dose of a big man (something they have yet to see this season).
Alec Burks has been strong in relief (scoring more than 20 percent of the team’s points), but he is a third-year man who is making more shots per game (seven) than he had every previously attempted (6.1 FGA for his career before this season).
The Jazz have managed to stay in both of their games this year thanks to a 28-point edge in the paint, but that is a risky way to try to beat a Rockets team that features not one, but two double-double machines. They couldn’t defend Kevin Durant (42 points and 24 FTA), and I expect them to have similar problems with a foul-drawing expert in Harden.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Jazz hung around for a bit in this game, but the Rockets physicality is hard to deal with for 48 minutes, especially when traveling on the second night of a back-to-back.