In a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference semifinals series, the No. 4 seed Houston Rockets (53-29) took a 1-0 series lead on the No. 5 seed Utah Jazz (50-32) in convincing fashion the opening game of their first round of the playoffs.
While 4 vs. 5 matchups in the postseason are usually close ones — this series is interesting for different reasons. Houston excels on offense and ended the season ranked first in 3-pointers yet again. Furthermore, we already know how good James Harden is and how he’s the most dominant scorer in the NBA today.
As for Utah, it ended the season ranked 17th in points per game and 15th in offensive rating. However, the Jazz ended the year ranked second in defensive rating and third in blocks. The series will be dictated by whether or not the Rockets have a better offense than the Jazz play defense.
We’ll find out soon enough whether or not the Jazz do a better job of executing their game plan the way they intended to on Sunday night when they take the floor for Game 2.
Here’s everything you need to know about this first-round matchup between the Rockets and the Jazz.
No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz
How to watch Game 2
- Date: Wednesday, April 17
- Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Toyota Center — Houston, Texas
- Live stats: GameTracker
- TV channel: TNT
- Online streaming: fuboTV (try it free)
- Odds: N/A
Playoff series schedule
All times Eastern
- Game 1: Rockets 122, Jazz 90 (Box Score)
- Game 2: Jazz at Rockets, Wednesday, April 17, 9:30 p.m. — TV: TNT
- Game 3: Rockets at Jazz, Saturday, April 20, 10:30 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 4: Rockets at Jazz, Monday, April 22, 10:30 p.m. — TV: TNT
- Game 5*: Jazz at Rockets, Wednesday, April 24, TBD — TV: TBD
- Game 6:* Rockets at Jazz, Friday, April 26, TBD — TV: TBD
- Game 7*: Jazz at Rockets, Sunday, April 28, TBD — TV: TBD
Odds and Analysis
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Rockets: The Rockets finished the season with the second-best offense in the NBA, but they struggled during their regular season matchups with the Jazz. Houston scored just 99.0 points per 100 possessions in their regular season series, with three of the Rockets’ eight worst offensive games of the season coming against Utah.
Jazz: The Jazz have the second-best defensive unit in the NBA, but James Harden still had tremendous success against them by averaging 33.5 points per game on an effective field-goal percentage of 54 percent. With that said, it wasn’t all positive for Harden — his assist/turnover ratio (19-to-24) was his worst against any of the Rockets’ opponents this season.
Matchups to watch
1. Donovan Mitchell vs. James Harden: This is a star-driven league and franchises win games and championship due to those aforementioned star players. Harden is the reigning MVP and has a good chance at winning his second straight MVP award after averaging 36.1 points per game this season. With that said, MItchell is a star himself. He’s averaged over 26 points per game on over 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the calendar year of 2019. Most of the games in this series will likely be close, so it all comes down to which one of these star players can take over and win their games for their teams.
2. Can the Jazz slow Harden down enough? As you can see by the statistics mentioned earlier, Harden dominated the Jazz in their regular season matchups. However, the rest of his teammates disappointed. If Utah can slow Harden down enough, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela won’t win them this series. If the Jazz can force the ball out of Harden’s hands enough, that’s an victory in itself — and it should lead to a series victory.
3. Gobert vs. Capela: While Mitchell is the “star” on the Jazz, it’s Rudy Gobert who is the most valuable on the squad. His ability to alter shots will prove instrumental when Harden attempts to drive to the rim. However, he was arguably outplayed by Clint Capela during last year’s semifinals matchup. Considering Gobert is an All-NBA player and Capela has yet to reach that level, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year needs to put his imprint on this series by dominating his matchup with Capela.
Series prediction, pick
Rockets in 7: This could be the most interesting matchup in the first round of the NBA playoffs. It’s such a contrast of styles between two vastly different opponents. The Rockets heavily rely upon their offense and the talent of James Harden while the Jazz are all about playing winning games with stifling defense.
With that said, the Rockets should prevail in this series. In today’s NBA, you need guys that can completely take over a game. While Donovan Mitchell is respectable in his own right, he is no Harden — that was evidenced by Harden nearly carrying the Rockets from being a bottom-feeding Western Conference squad to within striking distance of the No. 2 seed by the end of the regular season.
The Jazz will be pesky — they always are. However, the home-court advantage and the dominance of Harden will be too much for Utah to overcome in this series.