The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz both looked excellent for the most part in their respective series against the Timberwolves and Thunder, with the Rockets getting hot for long stretches of time and the Jazz looking steady throughout their series against a Thunder team that was up and down all series.
For the Rockets, there were definitely highs and lows, including a Game 3 in which they were dominated by the Timberwolves when James Harden went 1-for-10 shooting threes. The Jazz recovered strong after losing Game 1, and they’re playing excellent basketball behind the unlikely heroics of Ricky Rubio and the veteran-like poise from rookie Donovan Mitchell.
No. 1 Houston Rockets (65-17) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (48-34)
How to watch Game 1
- Date: Sunday, April 29
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
- TV channel: ABC
- Online streaming: WatchESPN
Playoff series schedule
- Game 1 in Houston: Sunday, April 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
- Game 2 in Houston: Wednesday, May 2
- Game 3 in Salt Lake City: TBD
- Game 4 in Salt Lake City: TBD
- Game 5 in Houston: TBD (if necessary)
- Game 6 in Salt Lake City: TBD (if necessary)
- Game 7 in Houston: TBD (if necessary)
Regular-season series: Rockets won 4-0
Last season’s playoff results: Rockets were eliminated in second round by Spurs 4-2, Jazz were eliminated in second round by Warriors 4-0
Injury report: Jazz guard Thabo Sefolosha is out for the season; Rockets’ forward Luc Mbah a Moute doubtful for Game 1 while recovering from a dislocated shoulder, may return this series
Houston Rockets projected starting lineup: G Chris Paul; G James Harden; F Trevor Ariza; F PJ Tucker; C Clint Capela
Utah Jazz projected starting lineup: G Ricky Rubio; G Donovan Mitchell; F Joe Ingles.; F Derrick Favors; C Rudy Gobert
Houston wins if …
The shots fall, plain and simple. The Rockets are clearly the more talented team in this series, which is a testament to the breadth of their talent and not the Jazz’s lack of it. Donovan Mitchell can create problems for the Rockets, but with the shooting firepower that the Rockets have, they’re a much more intimidating team to face off against than the Thunder. That’s especially true in a series in which Russell Westbrook became an offensive black hole. The Rockets have three to four shooters on the floor at any given time, making them an extremely tough match-up.
Utah wins if …
The Rockets’ struggles from the field — which could be the result of the Jazz’s incredible defense — continue, and Ricky Rubio keeps facilitating the offense as efficiently as he has been. If the Rockets get Games 2 and 3 Harden — in which Harden went 4-for-18 on three-point attempts — and not Game 4 Harden, where Harden went 7-for-12 from deep, the Jazz have a fighting chance. Utah also has a big size advantage, which Quin Snyder is excellent at ensuring isn’t used against his team. They aren’t going to simply outscore the Rockets — a few more things need to go their way than they do for Houston — but they can definitely create some difficult match-ups and go on runs throughout the game.