The start of the NBA Playoffs means that basketball season is winding down, but not before the best teams in the country face off against each other for the NBA Championship. While a team’s performance in the regular season determines if they end up going to the playoffs and who they will face, anything is possible for all teams participating as long as they fight hard to win each series they get to play.
For the first round, the Utah Jazz are facing the Houston Rockets and James Harden. Harden, a seven-time NBA All-Star, is a hot shooter who’s already started creating some obstacles for the Jazz to overcome. In Game 1, he scored 29 points and had 10 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 122-90 victory. He was aided by six teammates who also scored in double digits. For Game 1, the Jazz were led by Rudy Gobert who offered up 22 points and 12 assists. Donovan Mitchell added 19 points while Ricky Rubio contributed 15 and Derrick Favors had 13.
In Game 2, Harden continued his tirade, scoring 32 points and adding 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He was helped by Chris Paul, who scored 17 points, and PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon, who each scored 16 points, leading the Rockets to a 118-98 victory.
Royce O’Neale and Ricky Rubio led the Jazz in scoring with each player racking up 17 points. Rubio also had 4 steals and 9 assists. Gobert offered up 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 steals, while Joe Ingles contributed 5 steals. Derrick Favors made an impact on defense and offense with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks, Donovan Mitchell had 11 points, 6 assists and 2 steals.
This series isn’t the first time that the Jazz and the Rockets have found themselves on opposite ends of the court during the playoffs. During the ‘90s, the teams faced each other four times in the playoffs. They met again in the playoffs in 2007. In 2018, the teams faced off in the Western Conference semifinals with the Rockets winning the series 4-1. In the rivalry, the Rockets currently lead 24-22 in playoff wins against the Jazz.
When it comes to all-time records, the Jazz still hold the lead for all-time wins against the Rockets 105-96. Both the playoff and all-time stats show that both teams are well-matched. With the longest win streak of each team being 12 games for the Jazz and eight for the Rockets, both teams experience surges of dominance, but never for too long. During the 2018-19 regular season, both teams won twice against each other. The Jazz won 100-89 on Oct. 24 and 118-91 on Dec. 6. The Rockets won 102-97 on Dec. 17 and 125-98 on Feb. 2. At the end of the regular season, the Rockets sat in fourth place in the Western Conference with 53 wins and 29 losses, while the Jazz were in fifth with 50 wins and 32 losses.
While the opening games of the series may have been a disappointment to Jazz fans, there are still more games to play. And, since the Rockets and the Jazz are so well-matched, there’s a good chance that the series will be one with some surprises, as well as thrilling, competitive games. Both teams face off next in Game 3 on Saturday, April 20 at 10:30 ET.