It’s the start of the other Western Conference semifinal matchup down in the Lone Star State. The fifth-seeded Utah Jazz are on the road as they play Game 1 of their best of seven series with the top-seeded Houston Rockets Sunday afternoon. Utah clinched their spot in the semifinals by beating the Thunder 96-91 in Game 6 of their series at home Friday night. Houston punched their ticket earlier in the week with a 122-104 home win over Minnesota in Game 5 of their series Wednesday night. Utah owns a 103-94 edge in the all-time regular season series though the Rockets swept the four game regular season series this season, capped by a 96-85 road win on February 26. The Jazz has won five of the seven playoff series between the teams and holds a 25-18 edge in playoff victories: that includes a 4-2 series win in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
- Jazz are 13-4 ATS in their last 17 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
- Jazz are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game
- Rockets are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up win
Houston hit 75 triples in their series against Minnesota but they shot nearly two percentage points worse in that series than they did in the regular season. The Rockets now have to contend with a Jazz team that was stifling in the second half of the season defensively. Utah carried that momentum over into the first round as they held the Thunder to 43 percent shooting in the series. The Jazz will be tested without Rubio and they likely had their work cut out for them even if he was on the floor. Houston should win this game but Utah’s defense keeps it close. If you’re playing straight up, the Rockets get the nod, but playing the line, take Utah and the points.