While a select few may feel bad for the Utah Jazz for always coming up short of a title, they’ve given plenty of reasons to enjoy the Houston Rockets denying them so often.
The Houston Rockets have had several rivalries throughout the years, but perhaps none have been as long-lasting as the one with the Utah Jazz. From tense playoff series to on-court altercations, there’s hardly a dull moment when these teams hit the hardwood.
There’s no doubt that both sides have had their successes over the years, with the Rockets being on the winning end of the rivalry over the last couple. The Utah Jazz have run into James Harden and the Rockets in each of the last two postseasons, falling 4-1 both times.
After the Jazz were recently spotlighted on the final episodes of “The Last Dance” after falling short in the NBA Finals to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, I wanted to examine why it’s always enjoyable to see Utah fail to come through. From the perspective of the Houston Rockets, here are three reasons it will never get old to see H-Town send Utah home disappointed.
3. The 1990s Rivalry
The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz must’ve gotten really sick of each others’ faces in the 1990s. Aside from their usual four regular season games every year, they also met up in the playoffs four separate times.
The two met in 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998, with the Rockets winning the first two series and the Jazz winning the last two. While the Jazz got the last laughs of the decade, they certainly didn’t get the biggest.
The first time they denied the Jazz a shot at an NBA title, Houston did so in convincing fashion. Only dropping Game 3, the Rockets completed a gentlemen’s sweep of Utah behind a series average of 27.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.6 blocks from Hakeem Olajuwon.
In their second playoff meeting, it took a total team effort from the Rockets to eliminate Utah in the first round in five games, as Kenny Smith and Clyde Drexler both led the team in scoring in Games 2 and 4, respectively.
Both times the Rockets knocked the Jazz out of the playoffs in the 90s, they went on to win the NBA title. Utah, meanwhile, came up short in the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls in both ’97 and ’98.
Despite giving up what seemed like half of their team in the 1996 offseason for Charles Barkley, Houston was back in the Western Conference Finals in 1997 and ended up tied 2-2 in the series with Utah.
The pesky Jazz prevailed this time, using their patented pick and roll to set John Stockton up for a series-winning 3-pointer. If it wasn’t for Utah, the Rockets would probably be up there with the Spurs, Celtics, Warriors, Bulls and Lakers as one of the teams to have won three or more rings.
Next: Reason No. 2