Well, it’s another Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz playoff series starting tonight, and the writers at TDS have you covered with their predictions for this first-round matchup.
Darren Yuvan (@DarrenYuvan)
I do think this is a pretty good matchup for the Rockets. Despite the season series finishing tied at two, the Rockets lost the first two games — in October and early December when things were pretty unsettled in H-town — and won the second two in late December and in February (a blowout) once we started to see more of the Rockets we know today. Combine that with Houston’s 4-1 series win in last year’s playoffs, and I think that gives the Rockets a bit of a psychological edge over the Jazz.
That being said, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about this year’s Rockets that wasn’t a feature of last year’s team is that they’re prone to some serious lapses. I don’t need to go over the blown leads and the losses to inferior competition again to remind you that Houston hasn’t been as consistent this year. That leaves a slight window open for Utah to steal this series, and I think a lot will come down to the Clint Capela - Rudy Gobert matchup. If Capela punks Gobert like he did last season, this will be over quickly. If Gobert dominates inside, things could be way different. Ultimately, I think the battle inside will be a stalemate, giving a Houston a 4-2 series win.
Armin Khansari (@ak2themax)
This isn’t where Houston fans wanted to be: facing a Utah team coming into the playoffs with momentum and a date with the Warriors in the second round as the prize for the winning team. The only real positive here is that Houston probably feels confident about their chances against the Jazz after winning in the second round last year (with two of the games being blowouts).
The Rockets feature an offense that can absolutely outscore the Jazz even when Houston’s defense will inevitably struggle to corral Donovan Mitchell. Last year, the Rockets stuck Trevor Ariza on Mitchell and it bothered the rookie. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Rockets no longer have Ariza on the team. Expect Austin Rivers to get some extra run and for P.J. Tucker and Iman Shumpert to handle the bulk of the Mitchell responsibilities.
Finally, the Rockets completely neutralized Rudy Gobert is last season’s series and will need to do so again this year. With James Harden’s improved floater, Gobert will face the toughest dilemma in all of basketball: stay home on Clint Capela and give up an easy floater to Harden or step up to meet the MVP and open up the lob to Capela. If Houston can take the big man out of the series like they did last year, this series probably doesn’t get past five games. Unfortunately, I think the Jazz have been cooking up a plan for how to utilize Gobert in this matchup for a year now and will be prepared. Plus, I’ve got a reputation to maintain. I’ll say Jazz in 6.
Jeremy Brener (@JeremyBrener)
The Jazz cannot win this series. I hope this makes sense, but, the Rockets will either beat the Jazz or beat themselves.
The Rockets are the favorite, as they should be. They are the superior team on paper and on the floor. Yes, the season series split 2-2, but three of those games took place before 2019.
This series will come down to a lot of individual matchups: James Harden vs. Donovan Mitchell, Clint Capela vs. Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles vs. Eric Gordon... the list goes on. I think the Rockets win a lot of those individual matchups and are deeper than the Jazz.
The Jazz are coming into this series without Dante Exum and a hobbling Ricky Rubio, which gives the guard play advantage to the Rockets.
The Jazz will need to play through their big men, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, if they want a chance to win this series.
Even then, I cannot see this Jazz team defeating the Rockets four times. The Rockets will take the series, probably in 5 and 6 at most.
Conrad Garcia (@ConradBuckets)
Though the Utah Jazz are a good defensive team, I do like this matchup a lot for the Rockets. The Jazz don’t necessarily have a Harden stopper or a Paul stopper, rely on team defense, and they’re not immediately threatening on offense. That’s a formula that the Rockets can handle.
That being said, the Jazz are no slouch of a team. They can get it going from three, Rudy Gobert is a legit threat down low on both sides, and Donovan Mitchell is a baller with another year under his belt. Though I do think Houston will come out on top, Utah could use their size and great coaching to their advantage and determine some games.
Houston over Utah, 4-2.
Coty Davis (@CotyDavis_24)
Rockets in six. (check the link for Coty’s full write-up on the Jazz)
I’m tired of worrying or discussing playoff seeding. It’s done, and this is where the Rockets are. Honestly there are really two parcels of teams this year, top four, bottom four, and that’s really the only major qualitative difference I see.
The Jazz are a very good team. They defend well, and have several very fine players. They’re well-coached. I find I no longer hate them. Mitchell isn’t a rookie, Rubio is back, so those things will definitely help them. But I don’t see what’s really changed from a Jazz team that fell in five to the Rockets last season.
Meanwhile James Harden has ascended to an offensive plateau with only other NBA immortals for company. The Rockets are deeper, and in all likelihood better than they would be with their roster from last year. I like the Rockets being able to throw Rivers and Shumpert on Mitchell.
I’ve said many times that I think the Rockets are the NBA team whose results are least dependent on opponent. If the Rockets shoot well, and they’re healthy, they almost always win. It doesn’t matter who they play, the results show us this is true over two seasons.
The Jazz, I think, will in the end not have enough defense to contain the Rockets completely, nor enough offense to win a scoring battle.
Rockets in six, as the Jazz shoot lights out in one game, and the Rockets find their early season form in another. My heart says five, but there’s that ability to blow any game still lurking in the Rockets, I fear.
As I’m last, here’s a poll (of course).
Rockets vs Jazz Outcome?
This poll is closed
Rockets in Five.
Rockets in Six.
Rockets in Seven.
Mavs in three, duh.