Jazz vs. Rockets preview: Playoff implications loom in Houston

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz could make up some key ground in the Western Conference standings with a win over the Rockets on Wednesday.

The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz are two of the few remaining teams still battling against uncertain postseason fates. On Wednesday night, they'll meet up in Texas for a matchup with potentially huge postseason implications.

Currently seventh and ninth in the Western Conference standings, respectively, the Rockets and Jazz are in a five-team race for the final two postseason spots with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers.

With a 34-33 overall record, Utah is two games behind Houston for the seventh seed and one game behind L.A. for the eighth seed. The Mavericks and Blazers are also within four games of the Lakers, leaving the possibility that either team could make a run, however unlikely it is.

In a strong position to reach the playoffs just a few weeks ago, the Jazz have stumbled in recent weeks to drop out of the current alignment. However, neither the Lakers or Rockets has been able to pull away from the crowd, leaving the folks at SLC Dunk, SB Nation's Jazz blog, confident that Utah can still make a run for its money.

While the Jazz have won just three of their past 12 games, they have began to play better in recent days. After beating a scorching Memphis Grizzlies squad over the weekend, the Jazz played tough against the short-handed New York Knicks before the offense faltered in the second half.

Those efforts offer some optimism, but Utah's struggles on the road this season don't impart confidence. The Jazz have lost six straight road games during a stretch lasting more than a month.

The Rockets haven't had a stretch as bad as Utah's, but the team's inconsistency has been unnerving. Facing home-and-away series against the Mavs, Warriors and Suns earlier this month, Houston displayed its frustrating volatility.

On March 3, the Rockets beat the Mavs by 33 points, only to follow it up three days later with a four-point loss in Dallas. Facing back-to-back games against Phoenix, the Rockets dropped the first contest by two points only to follow it up with a 30-point beatdown. A six-point win over Golden State earlier this month was followed up by a 30-point loss to the Warriors last weekend.

That's three games with a winning margin of 30 points or more in a seven-game span.

If Utah can get the Rockets on a bad night, there's every reason to believe the Jazz can win, but a Houston blowout feels equally possible.

Wednesday's game begins at 8 p.m. ET.

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