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NBA Matchups – Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets First Round Playoff Preview

Written by:
Phil Simon
Published on:
Apr/11/2019

The divide between the top and the bottom playoff seeds in each conference is wide and I don‘t expect to see a first round upset there.

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When we get to the middle seeds, that’s where the fun begins, and we could have all kinds of excitement in the first-round series between the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz.

The Rockets are using a different approach this year after entering last season’s playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference didn’t work out for them. Houston got to that series with the Warriors by defeating Utah in five games in the second round and we’ll never know if the Rockets could have beaten Golden State if not for an injury to Chris Paul in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.

BookMaker.eu will have NBA odds, first half lines, and live betting options for every game of the 2019 playoffs.

No. 5 Utah Jazz vs. No. 4 Houston Rockets

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Jazz at Rockets, Sunday, April 14, 2019, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 2: Jazz at Rockets, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 3: Rockets at Jazz, Saturday, April 20, 2019, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 4: Rockets at Jazz, Monday, April 22, 2019, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 5: Jazz at Rockets, Wednesday, April 24, 2019 (If Necessary)

Game 6: Rockets at Jazz, Friday, April 26, 2019 (If Necessary)

Game 7: Jazz at Rockets, Sunday, April 28, 2019 (If Necessary)

Series Price at BookMaker.eu: Check Back Later

It’s easy to see why the Rockets want another crack at the Warriors after last year’s events changed the course of the entire playoffs. A win in Game 5 gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the conference final, but Paul went down with a hamstring injury – again – and the Rockets never recovered, losing the next two games.

They may have won the series had Paul remained healthy. And they may not have, but that’s water under the bridge. Houston cruised to the best record in the league last season for the purpose of getting homecourt advantage for that series. Obviously it didn’t work out. Now, the Rockets will open at home against the Jazz, but as the No. 4 seed they would start the next series on the road, assuming they make it that far.

Considering the way the Rockets played over the last month of the season, it’s easy to assume they’ll handle Utah. In a wicked sense of irony, Houston’s post All-Star Game surge coincided with having a healthy lineup.

The start of the unofficial second half of the season began with a loss and the Rockets dropped their regular season finale to OKC on Tuesday. But in between there were flashes of the team that won 65 games a year ago and cleared the West by seven games. The Rockets won 20 of 23 games in that stretch and flirted with second place in the West, a minor miracle considering how poorly they started the season.

Before we go slotting the Rockets into the next round, they have to get past a lethal opponent which won 50 games. Donovan Mitchell had his struggles from the field in his sophomore season, but he rallied late and led the team in scoring. And James Harden will have to contend with Rudy Gobert on his drives to the basket.

The Jazz were one of the best rebounding teams during the regular season and missing shots are missed opportunities for the Rockets. The teams split the four-game season series with Houston taking the last two by locking down defensively. The presence of Clint Capela is more important to Houston than Gobert is for Utah, and Capela is a big reason for Houston’s transformation in the second half, which is aided by improved defensive play.

Jazz vs. Rockets Free Picks

This series will probably be one of the best in the opening round as it’s the only one that matches a pair of 50-win teams. The Rockets will do what they do, and that’s attempt a bunch of three-pointers. They’ve been fairly successful doing it and the offensive numbers are reflective of that. Harden is on the short list of MVP candidates and he’s given Utah fits over the years, as have the Rockets. Utah would have preferred to play Portland in the opening round since this matchup favors Houston in a lot of ways. I like the Jazz, but Harden kicks it up a notch in the second season, and the Rockets are looking forward to a second-round showdown with the Dubs.

Jazz vs. Rockets Series Pick: Rockets in 6 Games

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