Jazz-Rockets Preview

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James Harden and the Houston Rockets are hoping things are pointing up. A home-heavy stretch is providing them with that opportunity.

After Harden shook off some fan misconduct while dominating the Utah Jazz, he shouldn't have any such obstacles as the Rockets try to beat them again Thursday night.

Harden is second in the NBA with 28.1 points per game, and Houston (17-19) is starting to take advantage of his production.

He practically did it himself Monday, scoring 21 of his 30 points in the final 15:57 as the Rockets rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Utah 93-91 and stop their four-game slide.

Harden also overcame a bizarre incident during the comeback, pointing out a fan who was shining a laser at him while he tried to take a free throw. The unidentified fan was ejected and reportedly banned for one year by the league.

The Rockets are now trying to avoid a third straight loss at home following a seven-game winning streak there.

They're going to have plenty of chances to re-establish that success at Toyota Center, where they'll play seven of the next 10 games.

"It's a great opportunity for us to take care of home-court advantage," Harden said. "We gotta focus on things we can control; our defensive togetherness, rebounding the basketball and limiting the turnovers."

Houston has won nine of the last 11 meetings with the Jazz (15-19), sweeping all five at home by an average of 18.8 points.

Harden had a triple-double in the most recent home matchup, scoring a game-high 16 points with 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Rockets coasted to a 117-91 win April 15.

The Jazz shot 37.6 percent from the field - 5 of 27 from beyond the arc - in that meeting. However, they're more concerned with shoring things up defensively after following Monday's collapse with a 123-98 loss at San Antonio on Wednesday.

Not only was it the most points Utah has allowed all season, but it permitted the Spurs to shoot a staggering 60.5 percent - the highest by an opponent since Quin Snyder took over last season.

"Collectively we're going to play for 48 minutes, regardless of what the scoreboard says," guard Trey Burke said. "We leave it all out there on the court. We've just got to continue to play that way whether we're getting beat by 20 or if we're up by 20. We have to have that mindset and focus to continue to play with a lot of energy."

It doesn't help the Jazz are missing Dante Exum (ACL tear), Rudy Gobert (MCL sprain), Alec Burks (broken leg) and Derrick Favors (back spasms) through injuries.

Burke, though, has provided some punch off the bench, scoring 21 points Wednesday. He's had three 20-point games while averaging 18.0 in his last five - nearly six points higher than his season mark.

Burke, however, had just 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting against the Rockets.

Rodney Hood is looking for a bounce-back effort. The second-year guard was held to nine points at San Antonio after totaling 55 over the previous two games, including 23 against the Rockets while hitting 5 of 6 3s.