Jazz-Rockets Betting Guide: What’s Wrong With Houston’s Defense?

Jazz-Rockets Betting Guide: What’s Wrong With Houston’s Defense? article feature image

Photo credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clint Capela

Betting odds: Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets

  • Spread: Rockets -4.5
  • Over/Under: 212
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: NBA TV

>> All odds as of 1 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

The 14-16 Utah Jazz visit the 14-14 Houston Rockets tonight. Both teams have been disappointing so far this year, but there are signs that things could be turning around. What does that mean for tonight’s spread?

Betting Trends to Know

The Jazz are coming off one of their worst performances of the season, shooting 31.5% and losing by seven to the Magic in Orlando.

Did You Know? Since 2005, when teams play a road game against the Heat or Magic and then continue their road trip to any other city, they are 321-263-6 ATS (55%), with a 7.4% return on investment.

The Jazz shot 31.5% from the field in their loss to the Magic — their second-worst shooting performance of the season. Under Quin Snyder, the Jazz are 24-15 ATS (61.5%) after shooting below 40% from the field in their previous game, making Snyder the most profitable coach in the NBA in this spot since being hired in Utah. — Evan Abrams

Mears: Breaking Down Each Team’s Major Flaw

Over the last month, these have been two polar opposite teams. Since Nov. 17, the Jazz sit 24th in offensive efficiency and third on defense; the Rockets rank first on offense but a miserable 29th on defense.

Their strengths make sense, and I would expect both to be top-five units over the rest of the regular season in those categories. The more interesting and important question is whether either of them can fix their flaws — offense for the Jazz and defense for the Rockets.

Starting with the Jazz offense, the overall profile isn’t that bad. Over the last month, the Jazz are 23rd in mid-range frequency, seventh in shots at the rim and fifth in shots from the corner-3 area. They’re even doing fine in those areas, specifically hitting 43.4% of their corner-3s (fifth best in the league).

Overall, they’re 10th in effective field goal percentage during that span, which is a good sign. The issue — and it’s a big one — is that they’re turning the ball over on 16.1% of their possessions (third worst). The main culprits have been Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio, who rank in the seventh and 15th percentiles, respectively, in turnover rate this season.

Donovan Mitchell has actually been quite good handling the ball, turning it over only 10.8% of the time (80th percentile). Thus, it seems the Jazz have a bit of a Rubio problem, and perhaps they should consider playing him more with second units instead of two-guard lineups with Mitchell. The shooting numbers are fine with him, but that turnover rate is killing them right now.

On the Rockets, there are signs the defense could get better due to a scheme change. They had a ton of success last year switching everything, but that just hasn’t worked this year. They’re getting killed on isolation plays after switches, and there’s a snowball effect with that strategy, too.

Switching a pick-and-roll and putting Clint Capela on a guard removes him from the paint. The numbers definitively show how that’s hurt them: The Rockets rank dead last over the last month in opponent field goal percentage at the rim. It’s a layup line at this point.

Further, switching takes Capela out of good rebounding position, and over the last month the Rockets also rank dead freaking last in defensive rebound rate. Switching is a fine strategy in theory, but it’s not worth these tangential effects. They would be much better served by playing a more traditional defensive scheme and keeping Capela around the paint.

And in the last couple of days, head coach Mike D’Antoni has seemed to notice the issue and wants to fix it:

“We’re trying not to switch (everything). There will be times when a guy gets hit and he can’t get through and you have to switch, but now it’s on a have-to basis, not a we-want-to basis. We’ll try to keep a big guy at home, try to keep him where he rebounds more.”

That’s a positive sign, and I think it could drastically improve the defense and make it a passable unit. Combine that with the league’s best offense, and the Rockets will be at least closer to where they were last year.

Given D’Antoni’s statement, I think it’s likelier that the Rockets will improve on defense than the Jazz will deal with their turnover/Rubio issues. It’s probably wise to buy Rockets stock in the future. — Bryan Mears

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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