Rockets-Jazz Preview

James Harden appears to have returned to form after leading the

high-scoring Houston Rockets to a statement-making victory during

their best stretch so far.

Harden and the surging Rockets look for their sixth straight

victory while trying to keep the host Jazz from winning consecutive

contests for the first time Monday night.

Harden finished with a game-high 31 points to help Houston

(13-5) snap a seven-game losing streak in San Antonio in Saturday’s

112-106 victory.

The Rockets fell behind the Southwest Division-leading Spurs in

the second half after leading by as many as 23 points, but rallied

to score the game’s last nine points.

“Last year we probably would have caved in; they would have

beaten us by a lot,” said Harden, who hit a key 3-pointer to tie

the score with a minute remaining. “So, this year the improvement

we’ve adjusted to has been tremendous.”

The All-Star guard, among the league leaders with 23.6 points

per game, missed three games because of an ongoing foot problem

before finishing with a season-low nine points on 1-of-4 shooting

in 25 minutes on Friday.

Even with Harden in and out of the lineup, the Rockets have

continued to score at a high rate. They’re averaging 111.6 points

on 51.2 percent shooting – including 44.1 percent from 3-point

range – while winning eight of nine.

Houston also has scored 113.3 per game with a 51.1 field-goal

percentage during a four-game winning streak against the Jazz

(3-15).

In the most recent meeting in Utah, Chandler Parsons had 24

points and 12 rebounds in a 104-93 win on Nov. 2. Parsons scored a

season-high 25 on Saturday and has hit 10 of 14 from 3-point range

in his last two games.

Utah rookie Trey Burke continues to improve after missing 12

games while recovering from surgery on his finger. He finished with

a season-high 20 points, including two 3-pointers in the final four

minutes, to lead the Jazz to a 112-104 victory at Phoenix on

Saturday.

The ninth overall pick has averaged 15.7 points and made 7 of 15

from beyond the arc while helping Utah win two of three following a

1-14 start.

“He’s learning a lot on the fly here,” coach Tyrone Corbin told

the league’s official website.

On Saturday, Richard Jefferson had 15 and Marvin Williams and

Derrick Favors added 14 apiece for Utah, which had dropped its

first nine road games by an average of 14.5 points.

The Jazz, 2-6 at home, have shown improvement offensively behind

Burke, reaching 100 points in back-to-back contests after scoring

that many only once over their first 16.

They attempt to continue that trend against the Rockets, who

have given up an average of 111.7 points over their last seven road

games.

Houston’s Dwight Howard looks to get on track after averaging

just 12.4 points and 9.2 rebounds over his last five games.

Jeremy Lin, who had 20 points in the first meeting with the

Jazz, is expected to miss at least two weeks with a sprained right

knee.