Rockets-Jazz Preview

After finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz are hoping to take a big step forward in 2014-15 under new coach Quin Snyder.

They should get an idea as to how they stack up in Wednesday night’s opener against the visiting Houston Rockets, who kicked off their season with an easy win.

"We just have to be ready to play and see where we stand," said Snyder, who replaced Tyrone Corbin following last season’s 25-57 campaign. "We want to see (the team) play together and play hard. Those are the two things if we can get every night, that gives us a chance to get better and be competitive."

While veterans Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson are gone, the Jazz return several good young pieces in Trey Burke (21), Rudy Gobert (22), Derrick Favors (23) and Gordon Hayward (24). They’ll be joined by 19-year-old Australian guard Dante Exum, who was selected No. 5 overall in this year’s draft.

"Especially for a young team like us, we need somebody to tell us, `This is how it’s supposed to be. If you don’t know it, I’m going to teach it to you,’" Hayward said. "Because we’re so young and so inexperienced we don’t know what it takes to win."

Hayward wasn’t certain to return until Utah matched Charlotte’s four-year, $63 million offer this summer. He led the team with 16.2 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists last season, becoming the team’s first player to average at least 16-5-5 since Pete Maravich in 1976-77.

Big things are also expected from Favors, who averaged career highs of 13.3 points and 8.7 boards while shooting 52.2 percent. He should be good to go Wednesday despite some recent knee soreness.

"I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people," he said.

Utah has dropped five of six to Houston, a stretch during which it’s been outscored by an average of 17.1 points. The Rockets cruised to a 124-86 victory March 17 in the last meeting.

"Houston is a good team," Favors said. "It will be a good challenge for us. We’ll come out there and show everybody what we’ve been working on in practice and try and get a win."

The Rockets are looking to open 2-0 for a third consecutive season after Tuesday’s 108-90 road win over the Lakers. James Harden scored 22 of his 32 points in the first half as Houston took a 62-45 lead into the break.

Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard combined for 29 points and 24 boards. The Rockets went 12 of 29 from 3-point range while the Lakers were 3 of 10.

"It was a good way to come out of the gate," coach Kevin McHale said. "If we’re running our offense the way we can, we’re going to try to collapse the paint, and if they get in the paint, we’re going to kick it out. A perfect possession for us is getting the ball to the front of the rim and either scoring it or kicking it out."

The Rockets won seven of their first eight on the second of back-to-backs last season before finishing 12-8 in such games.

Harden has averaged 28.3 points while shooting 51.9 percent in his last three visits to Utah. Hayward has averaged 21.0 points and connected on 57.9 percent from the field during a seven-game stretch in the series.

The Jazz, who dropped eight straight and 14 of their first 15 to open 2013-14, are 1-4 in their last five season openers.