Rockets-Jazz 2nd Round Preview and Predictions

By Salman Ali on April 28, 2018

The Western Conference Semis are here! Let's not waste any time, shall we?


1) Rockets Vs. (5) Jazz


Explain your pick.

Salman Ali: The Jazz might be the 3rd best team in the Western Conference. They have a defined offensive system that predicates on a lot of ball and body movement, they're the best defensive team in the league, and Donovan Mitchell looks like a burgeoning superstar already as a rookie. This won't be easy, but the Rockets are still the better team.

Forrest WalkerI love a good hedge, and Rockets in 6 is a very solid hedge. The Jazz are good enough that a five game series is a little bit of short shrift. The Rockets are better than the Jazz, but sometimes Things Happen.

Paul Michie-Derrick: The Jazz have the perfect pick and roll defense to stifle the Rockets’ potent offense. The Rockets will have to grind games out in order to win.

Kyle Chilek: The Rockets are an elite offensive team up against an elite defensive team in Utah, the deciding factor will likely be that Houston's defense is close to Utah's, than Utah's offense is to Houston's offense. Rubio being out to start is also big, and could see it ending in five if he misses any games in Utah.

Matthew Cardenas:  I don’t think the sweep in the season series means all that much. But I ultimately feel the Rockets have too much firepower compared to the Jazz. Utah’s offense also just took a big hit with the Ricky Rubio injury.

Jorge Flores: I think the Rockets are a far superior team to the Jazz, but Utah has been on an incredible roll for a while now. They have a legit good defense that I think could give the Rockets big problems at times. Give Donovan Mitchell a couple of great scoring games with that team’s defense and Utah could take a couple of games.

Taylor Pate: If Ricky Rubio misses the entire series, I'm willing to go as far as Rockets in 5. The Rockets were 4-0 against the Jazz this season, and although Donovan Mitchell has turned into quite the player, he averaged just 16/3/3 against the Rockets in the regular season, with an offensive rating of 93 and a defensive rating of 116. If he can't perform the way he did against Oklahoma City, it's hard to see where the points will come from for Utah.

Who or what is the biggest 'X-Factor' in this series?

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Salman Ali: Luc Mbah a Moute's return. The Rockets are going to be the superior offensive team in this series and it's hard to envision a universe where that's not the case. They need, however, to keep pace with the Jazz defensively to really create seperation. Mbah a Moute is critical to Houston reaching their highest heights defensively and his timetable for return is something to watch.

Forrest WalkerThe big X factor is Donovan Mitchell, and I expect this to be the consensus answer. He’s an awesome player with not only a bright future but an amazing present. He’s also a rookie. He didn’t look stymied against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but this is a much better team he’s about to deal with. How well he’s able to hang will go a long way in determining how many games the Jazz win.

Paul Michie-Derrick: The X factor is James Harden’s 3 pointer. He’ll have to hit them in this series, and he has a history of being streaky with them in the postseason

Kyle Chilek: Most important X-Factor will probably be PJ Tucker. If he is able to hit three's and force Gobert to have to guard him out at the line in Tucker at center lineups, the Jazz defense will be significantly easier to attack. 

Matthew Cardenas: I’m looking at Ryan Anderson to play a big role in this series. The Rockets can go small and move him to center, ultimately spreading the floor. Moves like that can keep Rudy Gobert off the floor and the Jazz will lose a lot of rim protection.

Jorge Flores: I think bench scoring is a very important factor in this series, specifically as it relates to Eric Gordon. He has not shot the ball well in the playoffs so far, so I think him heating up is very important. If the Rockets could get more efficient scoring from Gordon, Gerald Green, and maybe even Luc Mbah a Moute later on in the series, then Houston shouldn’t have too much of a problem advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

Taylor Pate: The X-Factor in this series is going to wind up being the Rockets' motor. If they keep the edge they showed in their 50-point quarter throughout this series, I've looked through 14,000,605 timelines and there's only one where the Jazz win.

What would you consider the most important statistic in this series and why?

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Salman Ali: The most important statistic in this series is going to be defensive rebound percentage. The Rockets (79.9%) were neck and neck with Jazz (79.8%) during the regular season in that category (3rd and 4th respectively). Houston has to keep pace with Utah on the glass if they want to end this series quickly. Utah may play bigger with Derrick Favors at the four and Rudy Gobert at the five, but Houston has to make up for the size advantage by getting their guards to crash the glass consistently.

Forrest WalkerThe Rockets have to not just hit, but take threes. In this series, against an elite defense that will chase them off the three point line, the big stat is three point field goals attempted. If they get scared away or bludgeoned out of their bread and butter, the Rockets are toast. If they can keep getting those shots up, the percentages should come out in their favor over time.

Paul Michie-Derrick: The most important statistic is rebounding percentage. The Jazz play with 2 bigs and will have to dominate the glass if they want to win.

Kyle Chilek: Most important stat is three point attempts. If Houston is able to get up their regular amount of attempts against Utah, it will mean that the defense is going to have to spread out, and that the Rockets are succeeding in getting looks against a team that drops bigs in pick and roll, which they've struggling against in the past. 

Matthew Cardenas: The Rockets made 67 three’s compared to the Jazz’s 39 in the season series. Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles are solid from the perimeter, but the Rockets just have so many more weapons on the perimeter

Jorge Flores: This isn’t a statistic per se, but the Rockets need to get their offense going earlier in these games than they did against the Wolves. It’s a luxury to have James Harden and Chris Paul there to steer the ship in the second half, but the Rockets are much better than they’ve shown - even when considering the 50-Point quarter the team unleashed in Game 4 in Minnesota. I’d like to see the Rockets get off to hot starts and keep that momentum for the entire game.

Taylor Pate: The most important statistic in this series will be FG% at the rim. Against the Timberwolves, James Harden seemed to be missing a ton of layups, which eventually contributed to a 2-18 game. If the Rockets are able to finish over Rudy Gobert, a DPOY candidate, things will become much easier for the 3-point barrage the Rockets are capable of displaying.

Most important player in this series?

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Salman Ali: The most important player in this series is James Harden. The Jazz have the defensive personnel to throw the kitchen sink at Harden and Quinn Snyder is a smart enough coach to keep things interesting with his pick and roll coverages. Despite everything the Jazz do, Harden has to have a good series. Unlike the first round, the Rockets can't afford to be mediocre offensively to win games. Harden, despite having Chris Paul at his side, is still the focal point of Houston's attack.

Forrest WalkerThe biggest player in this series is, again, James Harden. How successful he is at picking apart Utah’s defense will determine how successful the Rockets are in winning games. To boot, he needs to continue to be at least playable on the defensive end. The Jazz’s offense is well-comprised if not mighty, and the Rockets have a real opportunity to win this series on defense if Harden can keep up his effort and remain a plus defender.

Paul Michie-Derrick: The most important player is Clint Capela. If he’s scoring on rolls against Gobert it means the offense is having success.

Kyle Chilek: James Harden, as always, is the Rockets most important player, and the most important player this series

Matthew Cardenas: Chris Paul is the most important player in my opinion. The Jazz are one of the best defensive teams (arguably the best) in the association and are going to focus a lot of their attention on James Harden. Paul played really well against the Jazz in last year’s playoff matchup, although the rosters are drastically different. This is a series that can justify the pairing of Paul and Harden.

Jorge Flores: James Harden is playing at an incredible level right now, so I’m not worried about him at all. He’s obviously extremely vital to Houston’s success, but I’m going to go with Chris Paul here. Aside from Game 2 in Houston - CP3 hasn’t looked great and I think the “Point God” has a lot more to show. He needs to absolutely dominate Utah’s second string (as much as there is a second string in a Playoff game) and make rookie Donovan Mitchell as uncomfortable as possible on both sides of the floor.

Taylor Pate: The most important player in this series could wind up being Donovan Mitchell. He's the motor that keeps the car running for Utah, and if he plays like he did against the Rockets in the regular season, the Jazz are in some serious trouble.

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