We are inching closer to crowning the 2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League. The semi-finals are up with the Brooklyn Nets taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz squaring off against the Houston Rockets. With that said, it is time to continue our NBA odds series with a Jazz-Rockets prediction and pick.
The Jazz are one of the undefeated teams in Summer League, but they finished with the fourth-best point differential in the tournament, which is why they ultimately finished third in the standings. Three of their wins were six points or less, with their victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves being their lone double-digit win in Vegas. Unfortunately, they will need to go to battle the rest of the way without their 15th overall pick Keyonte George, who suffered what looked like a gruesome ankle injury. Luckily, George's ankle showed no fractures.
Meanwhile, the Rockets have been arguably the best team in Summer League along with the Cavaliers. They have won their games by an average of 10.8 points, which ranks second in the tournament. Three of their wins were by 12 points or more, with the biggest one being a 118-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Their lone close game was that scintillating Jabari Smith Jr. game-winner that earned Houston a 100-99 win during their Vegas opener against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Here are the Vegas Summer League NBA Odds, courtesy of FanDuel.
NBA Summer League Odds: Rockets-Jazz Odds:
Utah Jazz: +4.5 (-112)
Houston Rockets: -4.5 (-108)
Over: 188.5 (-110)
Under: 188.5 (-110)
How to Watch Jazz vs. Rockets
Stream: Watch ESPN
Time: 6:00 PM ET/ 3:00 PM PT
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Why the Jazz could cover the spread
Losing Keyonte George was definitely tough for the Jazz as they look to vie for the Summer League crown. George has been Utah's leading scorer throughout the tournament, averaging 21.7 points per game on 52.3 percent field goal shooting and 44.4 percent three-point shooting. Unfortunately, they will have to go on without him and will look to Johnny Juzang to lead the team the rest of the way.
Juzang is just behind George in the scoring department for Utah, averaging 17.8 points on a similarly efficient 53.2 percent from the field. He is also guns blazing from beyond the arc, shooting at a 52.2 percent from three on 5.0 attempts per game.
With George going down, Luka Samanic has also stepped up offensively. He is averaging 16.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in three games. The Croatian scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting with four three-pointers in their 98-94 win over the Phoenix Suns to help Utah clinch its semi-finals berth.
The Jazz have been the tournament's most efficient team from the field at 48.5 percent. They also rank No. 1 in three-pointers made per game (15.3) and are just slightly below the Cavaliers in three-point percentage (37.2 percent). Utah is also No. 1 in assists, averaging 26 dimes per contest as a team. Though their best player in Vegas is no longer available, the Jazz should still have a great chance to make the upset, cover the 4.5-point underdog spread, and advance to the Summer League Finals.
Why the Rockets could cover the spread
Apart from the Cavs, the Rockets are the only team who has beaten their opponents by an average of 10 points or more. To start the tournament, Houston was led by some rookie standouts from last season in Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason. But the two have proven to be too good for Summer League and have since been pulled out from Vegas.
Additionally, they also lost 4th overall pick Amen Thompson during their opener due to a sprained ankle. The Rockets remaining undefeated without Smith and Eason for their last two games and Thompson essentially for all but one game of the tournament is a testament to how well they've been playing so far. They only fielded seven players during their 18-point win over the Golden State Warriors. In that game, they knocked down 20 three-pointers, 11 of which came from Trevor Hudgins (6) and Darius Days (5).
The Rockets have relied on their No. 20 overall pick Cam Whitmore to lead the team, especially over the last two games. The 19-year-old has appeared in all four games, and without Smith and Eason, is Houston's top leading scorer. Whitmore is averaging 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 3.5 steals per game in Vegas. The Rockets seem to have hit the jackpot with the Villanova standout looking a lot like the steal of the draft.
On the tournament, Houston averages the most field goals made per game at 39. They also rank just behind Utah in field goal percentage (47.6 percent) and three-pointers made per game (14.3).
Final Jazz-Rockets prediction and pick
It's hard not to pick the Rockets for this one as they have been dominant throughout the tournament, even without guys such as Smith, Eason, and Thompson. Whitmore is proving to be a force on both ends of the floor and I think he will continue to shine against a Jazz team without Keyonte George. The Rockets just have a little bit more firepower, just as they showed against the Warriors on Thursday.