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March 12th 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

Take Utah Jazz at +2 spread against Houston Rockets risking 3% of bankroll.

The Houston Rockets are coming off a 5 point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last night and travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz who have been playing extremely solid basketball over the last couple of weeks. The Jazz come into this contest confident, having won 3 straight  games and 8 of their last 10 overall. 

The Jazz are a young team and had issues earlier adjusting to a young roster wotj a rookie head coach but they have turned it around and are one of the best young and upcoming teams in the league. We knew that this was a team that had talent and potential on their roster and at the moment it appears that everything has finally started to gel with this team. They have continued to gain experience and their solid mix of offense and defense has continued to get better and better as the season has gone on. At the moment they are playing incredible defense and bear very little resemblance to the team which existed at the early part of the season. That team is gone. This team, with Rudy Gobert starting and being much more of a force at center, is currently 10-3 in their last 13 games. Gobert has been eating up space and protecting the rim with the rest of the team helping out with its responsibilities on the perimeter. The pieces are coming together. The Jazz have been the #1 defensive team in the NBA since the All-Star break and have held opponents to an average of just 83 points! They have allowed more than 90 points in only two of their past 13 games! They have allowed more than 96 points only once. Aside from a 100-point game conceded to the Lakers, this team has made few defensive mistakes. 

It should also be pointed out that Utah isn’t just winning games against poor teams. The Jazz are beating a number of good teams, but what has been more impressive is that they have not just been beating them, but they have been shutting them down offensively. On the road they allowed just 82 points to Memphis at FedEx Forum. They held to Spurs to just 81 points up in Salt Lake City, limited Portland to just 76 before the Wes Matthews injury in a home win against the Blazers. This may be a 27-win team this season, but at the moment they're playing like a 50 win team.

We believe this is a classic "trap" game. The Houston Rockets are playoff contenders and are no doubt the perceived much better team by the public. The oddsmakers opened this game up with the Jazz being 1 point home favorites. We believe that is an extremely telling line. Releasing a line such as that would no doubt command a huge amount of public action on the Rockets and that has indeed been the case. Public money has come flying in on Houston and because of that the sports books have been forced to move the line toward Houston favor making them the small road favorites in this contest. The last 3 times the Rockets have visited Salt Lake City they had been listed as the favorites. The average line in those contest have been Houston -5.5. To see Vegas open the Jazz as favorites in this one speaks volumes.    

Houston has had their fair share of struggles on the road recently. They have lost 5 of their last 7 road games and tonight come into this game on the second half of a back to back. Having already beaten the Jazz twice this season, it would be easy for Kevin McHale's team to come into this game a little overconfident and already looking past Utah. With a big game on deck against the Clippers on Sunday, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Houston players looking somewhat ahead to Sunday's contest. Houston has also been outrebounded by their opponents in 7 of their last 9 games while Utah has owned the rebounding edge in 12 straight games which has contributed to their recent success. The Jazz will likely be looking for payback tonight and given the way that they have been playing recently, we believe they will get it. Even though Utah will not be making the post season this year, they are still playing with a lot of heart and determination. To be able to "upset" a team the caliber of Houston would go a long way in continuing to build this team’s confidence heading into the off season. For the Jazz, the rest of the season is all about playing the role of spoiler and we believe they have embraced that role. 

Last night's game against Portland was a big one so it had to be deflating to see their direct rival overtake them in the standings. The game finished at 10:00pm PST and with this game being a 6:00pm PST contest, that is an extremely quick (20 hours) turnaround for what could be a physically and emotionally fatigued team!  Add in the fact there was travel involved and that this game is also being played in the altitude of Salt Lake City where the air is thinner and the Rockets are in a bad spot. If fatigue is an issue, it will only be magnified in this venue. Houston likes to play at an up-tempo pace which will cause them to fatigue much quicker than they would normally. Utah has had quite a bit of success against Houston in Salt Lake City having gone 35-11 dating all the way back to 1996 so coming away with victories at home has been something they have pulled off quite frequently. 

The Jazz have been the number 1 defensive unit in the league since the All-Star break and we believe that will be the difference tonight. Having dropped the first two games of the series already, they will be motivated in this contest to avoid possibly getting swept on the season. This is a game that we believe Utah "shocks" not only the Rockets but the betting public at the same time. We expect them to win this game outright and avenge their previous 2 losses; the couple of extra points are a nice bonus that we'll gladly take. If they want to avoid being swept, this is their chance since the 4th and final game will be played in Houston. This game simply means a lot more to them than the Rockets and their enthusiasm and intensity should be the difference against a tired and somewhat disinterested team.  

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Jazz have won 8 of their 10 games since the All-Star break!
  • Jazz are 29-12 ATS when revenging a loss to an opponent this season!
  • Jazz are 8-2 ATS when playing against a team with a winning record in the 2nd half of the season.

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