The Houston Rockets might be without stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook when they visit the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring with 36.1 points per game, did not play in Houston’s 117-110 loss at the Denver Nuggets on Sunday because of a thigh injury. Westbrook, who had 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists at Denver, has not played both ends of a back-to-back this season.
In Utah, the Rockets will face the hottest team in the Western Conference. The Jazz have won 14 of their past 15 games and rallied for a 112-107 home victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
During that 15-game stretch, the Jazz offense caught stride with their typically stout defense to allow Utah to grab first place in the Northwest Division and second in the conference behind the Los Angeles Lakers.
“The way that we play and move the ball is obviously a way that we think works and it’s successful,” Jazz forward Joe Ingles said. “But I think if we find a mismatch or Donovan (Mitchell) is hot or Bojan (Bogdanovic) is hot, we’ve got a lot of stuff that we can run that gets them the ball quickly in our offense, and they’re players that can create their own shot or a shot for others pretty easily.
“I think we’ve got a good mix of both.”
The Rockets were coming off an emotional Sunday, when they played at Denver following the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.
“I’ve got to be honest, I’m a competitor and obviously we cared about losing … but it wasn’t on my mind when we lost, us losing the game,” said Rockets guard Austin Rivers, who spent part of four seasons playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. “You go back to reality, and the facts are we lost somebody that meant so much to all of us. And then you hear about his daughter. As a father, I’ve said many prayers for that family and I will continue to do so.
“This was tough. I don’t know how we played. I would start thinking about the game, and it would just snap back into my mind. We have to play (Monday), and I’m sure Utah will do a tribute. This pain is not going to go away anytime soon. You don’t even have to be a basketball fan to feel this. One of the most competitive athletes, iconic athletes, and to be completely honest, more so as a father and what he’s meant to that family. I’m going to pray for (his wife) Vanessa and the kids. May he rest in peace.”
“Today is one of the toughest days in my life,” Rockets forward P.J. Tucker said. “To try to play today was tough. Kobe meant so much to the game — period.”
–Field Level Media