SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz held shootaround ahead of tonight's matchup against the team at the top of the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets. The game is being nationally televised on TNT and begins at 8:30 MT. Here's what's going on around the team.
Matchup with Houston
The Houston Rockets have the best record in the Western Conference at 18-4, and soundly defeated the Jazz in their last matchup, 137-110, as James Harden scored 56 points. Obviously, the Jazz hope to improve on that performance, though know it won't be easy.
"Part of us trying to get better is playing teams that are really really good," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said in shootaround. "It's a tall order."
But the Rockets are favored by seven points on the Jazz's floor as a result. The Jazz feel like a different team since their last meeting, having won six of their last seven. But they'll need the Rockets to shoot less well from beyond the 3-point arc than they did in their last matchup when they made 23 of 39 threes.
Donovan Mitchell's matchup against Roberson
Tuesday night's game against OKC was Donovan Mitchell's toughest matchup yet, spending most of his night being guarded by Andre Roberson, one of the league's top perimeter defenders. The Thunder also used Steven Adams liberally in pick and roll defense, trapping Mitchell in difficult situations.
Mitchell played well, though, scoring 31 points on 22 shots to lead the Jazz.
"I was pleased with how he handled that. People are going to blitz him more in the pick and roll, and he's going to have to handle that. He's got to be prepared for that, we've got to be prepared for that," Snyder said. "He's going to have to learn how to play through committed, physical defenders. I thought that was a real test for him, and he got tired, there's no question about that."
And Mitchell learned lessons from the film study yesterday:
"He made me work for every shot. Not every point, but every shot that I took," Mitchell explained. "I watch him, and he's a bigger Avery Bradley. He's bigger, stronger and made me work for every bucket that I had to get. This is why it's tough, because this footwork is wrong, or the pick and roll is too close to the sideline, or Joe is open because they're pressuring me."
Because Mitchell thinks he can be an elite defender too, he also took some lessons on tricks he can use on that end of the floor. While the Jazz picked up the loss, Mitchell relished the reps.
By the way, Mitchell seemed a little bit under the weather on Thursday, talking to the media with a lower voice than normal after dealing with a cough on Monday. We'll see if that impacts his game against Houston.
Rodney Hood is out for Thursday night's contest due to ankle soreness, but he worked out in front of Jazz coaches after Thursday's shootaround. Hood didn't show off much mobility but shot the ball extremely well.
Raul Neto is probable after missing Tuesday night's game against the Thunder. The Jazz could have really used the opportunity to give Mitchell a break, rather than rely on him to lead the bench's point guard minutes.
Joe Johnson and Dante Exum remain out for the Jazz. For the Rockets, Nene is listed as questionable due to a left corneal abrasion, and Ryan Anderson is probable to play after facing back issues.
Andrei Kirilenko's house
Former Jazzman Andrei Kirilenko's house burned down in the Skirball Fire in Southern California, according to former teammate Jason Collins:
Kirilenko is currently the commissioner of the Russian Basketball Federation and hasn't made public comment on the situation.