During the James Harden Era, the Houston Rockets owned the Utah Jazz. So much so that the Jazz did everything in their power over the last two years to avoid the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Two years ago, they were unsuccessful. Last season, they were able to lose on the last day of the season to guarantee a date with the Denver Nuggets, a series that they famously blew despite holding a 3-1 lead.
I thought the Jazz were going to be amazing last year. The additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic were great, I thought. The Jazz finally looked like they had enough offense to hang with the best teams in the West. Conley struggled mightily throughout the year, and Bogdanovic got hurt. Still, Conley had a shot to win the series at the buzzer in Game 7.
Utah is a year late to my prediction, but they are cruising as the top seed in the West, 1.5 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns. Donovan Mitchell is out for a few more days with an ankle injury, but the schedule did break kindly for them. They lost their first Mitchell-less game against the Lakers, but they won the rematch on Monday night. They get Houston tonight and then a home-and-home against the Minnesota Timberwolves and a game against Sacramento. Then comes the toughest and most important game left on their schedule: a trip to Phoenix on April 30. That game should be appointment viewing for neutrals. Most of us aren’t neutrals, but it should be a good game.
The Rockets laid an egg against the Miami Heat. It’s unlikely that the absence of Mitchell will matter much tonight. The Jazz still defend pretty well in front of Rudy Gobert and the team has scorers in Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson. Conley and Joe Ingles should be able to carve up Houston’s porous defense.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest