Rockets News

Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz first-round series detailed preview

By Michael Knight
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Utah Jazz (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Utah Jazz (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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HOUSTON, TX – DECEMBER 17: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets shoots the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 17, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – DECEMBER 17: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets shoots the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 17, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Personnel comparison

Both the Rockets and the Jazz boast great starting lineups that should be feared. They also are both fairly deep teams, but we’ll see if it actually stays that way when playoff rotations get shortened.

Guards

Let’s start with the two main stars. James Harden is an MVP candidate once again and has put together one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time. He is currently averaging the most points per 100 possessions ever. Yes, ever. Donovan Mitchell is certainly a great young player, but the obvious advantage goes to the Beard.

As for point guards, Ricky Rubio is a good playmaker and a great fit with the Jazz. Chris Paul, though, is a historically great point guard and playmaker. We’ll give CP3 the advantage. Also, I hope that Rubio has to guard Harden quite a bit, that’s always fun.

Forwards

The forward spots are tough to compare, because the two teams are drastically different with their personnel. Joe Ingles and Eric Gordon are both great shooters (Joe is better), but Ingles is also a more traditional small forward at 6’8. EG still plays as a guard despite technically being the small forward for the Rockets.

The same goes for P.J. Tucker and Derrick Favors at power forward. Tucker is a stretch-four who can guard the perimeter, while Favors plays more inside. Both help their teams in different ways.

Centers

A fun matchup to watch will be Clint Capela vs. Rudy Gobert. In last year’s playoffs, Capela came into his own and really owned this matchup. Let’s look into the stats a bit on these two centers.

On the season, Clint Capela averaged 16.6 points (64.8% shooting) and 12.7 rebounds to go along with 1.5 blocks per game. Rudy Gobert averaged 15.9 points (66.9% shooting) and 12.9 rebounds to go along with 2.3 blocks a night.

The numbers seem similar, but it’s certainly fair to say that Gobert is the better of the two. His elite defensive ability is what keeps him in the conversation each season for Defensive Player of the Year. Capela is still good defensively, but has taken a step down a bit, at least in his shot-blocking. If he outplays him again this year, though, Clint could be well on his way to being in that tier of centers.

Benches

The Jazz and Rockets both have solid pieces coming off the bench for the two teams. For Houston, Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried/Nene, Gerald Green and Iman Shumpert all can get buckets alongside CP3 and Harden. For the Jazz, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and Royce O’Neal are all solid pieces.

I’d give the advantage to Houston, but I’m also biased. Utah was middle of the pack (15th) in bench scoring, whereas Houston was last. That number is a bit skewed, though, as the Rockets don’t ask a ton from their bench besides knocking down 3s. Post All-Star Break, they have been doing just that with the sixth-most made 3s by benches.

Next: Where the Rockets can find an advantage

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