Rockets, Jazz hope to find footing
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HOUSTON -- With so many eyes throughout the NBA fixed on their performance, the Houston Rockets have had that scrutiny compounded by both injuries and a high-profile case of roster attrition.
Rockets forward James Ennis (hamstring) will not play on Wednesday when the Rockets (1-2) host the Utah Jazz (1-2) at Toyota Center, lengthening an infirmed list that already includes guard Brandon Knight (knee), center Nene (calf), and forward Marquese Chriss (ankle). Swingman Michael Carter-Williams, who has struggled mightily at the start of his first season in Houston, will replace Ennis in the starting lineup, getting the nod over veteran Carmelo Anthony, whose transition to a reserve role for the first time in his career has been bumpy.
The Rockets will also be without starting guard Chris Paul, who will serve the second game of his two-game suspension for his role in a brouhaha with the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday. Paul, who missed the Rockets' loss to the Clippers the following night, ably sidestepped questions regarding the skirmish.
"That's in the past," Paul said. "I think for me now it's all about making sure the fellas are ready for Utah and me getting excited for the game on Friday against the Clippers."
"You know, that was my reaction. Unfortunately, I can't be out there for my teammates."
For all the deserved lionizing of Utah defensively, the Jazz thrives as much off the tendency to score efficiently inside the arc. Last season, Utah ranked 12th in 2-point percentage (51.5), an effort that worked marvelously in concert with an ability to stifle the opposition in the paint.
That same effectiveness has proven elusive relative to consistent results. After posting a franchise-record 81-point first half against Golden State last week, the Jazz managed only 42 points in the second half, five fewer than the Warriors surrendered in the second quarter alone.
Utah never even got started against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, shooting 35.4 percent (29 for 82) overall and just 42.0 percent inside the arc. Utah ranks 20th in 2-point shooting percentage this season (48.3 percent), with struggles moving the ball yielding undesirable results.
"The substance of this team is the fact that we move the ball and we work together to get good shots," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said following the 92-84 loss to the Grizzlies. "And we didn't do that. You know, we know the guys we believe in. And you go into the game with a plan and then you adjust to the game. And that's basically what's happened. I don't think there was anything different about the Golden State game. And (Monday), we were down, obviously."
These issues tend to rectify themselves over time. Utah, with its static roster, is a presumptive candidate for improvement this season. Certain early-season problems don't warrant red flags.
"There's no major concern," Jazz guard Ricky Rubio said. "I think we -- we (are) good as a team. We believe in ourselves. But we've got to play better on both ends. We haven't put a whole game together where we can say that, we (are) who we are."
Updated October 24, 2018