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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz series preview

The field is set for the 2019 NBA Playoffs which begin on Sunday.

NBA.com is your destination for complete coverage of every series from now through the end of the NBA Finals.

Series Schedule

Here is the series schedule which begins on Monday, April 15:

  • Game 1 - Utah at Houston, 7:00 AM
  • Game 2 - Date at Houston, 7:00 AM
  • Game 3 - Date at Utah, 9:00 AM
  • Game 4 - Date at Utah, 9:00 AM
  • Game 5 (if necessary) - Date at Houston, Time TBD
  • Game 6 (if necessary) - Date at Utah, Time TBD
  • Game 7 (if necessary) - Date at Houston, Time TBD

Recapping the season series

Result: Teams split the season series 2-2

Best game: Dec. 18, 2018 - Rockets 102, Jazz 97 in Houston

Best performance: James Harden (Feb. 3, 2019) - 43 points (12-of-22), 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 steals

- Three of the games were decided by double figures, including a 27-point blowout win for each side.

- Harden had two games of 40-plus points, but also his lowest scoring game of the season on Dec. 7 in Utah, a game the Jazz won 118-91. Harden also averaged an uncharacteristically low 4.8 assists in the 4 games, his second-fewest against any team this season.

- Chris Paul only played in 2 of the games, which the teams split 1-1.

- In their final game of the year on Feb. 3, the Rockets torched the Jazz by 27 points in Utah, without Clint Capela or Paul.

- Donovan Mitchell shot poorly in 3 of the 4 contests, including a 6-point dud in a game the Jazz still managed to win by 27.

Key storyline: Elite offense collides with elite defense

In a rematch of last season's semi-finals which the Rockets won in five games, we'll get to see how far a young Jazz team has truly come in a year.

Utah was dominant in the second half of 2018-19, going 30-11 over their last 41 games, thanks in large part to the league's best defensive rating (103.0) since the calendar turned to 2019.

The Rockets weren't too bad themselves in the second half, finishing 29-12 over their final 41 games while owning the league's best offensive rating after the start of Feburary (114.8).

Drill down deeper and this matchup of strength versus strength becomes even more glaring. The Jazz tied for the league lead in 3-pointers allowed per 100 possessions (9.8) this season. Meanwhile, the Rockets led the NBA by sinking 16.4 threes per 100 possessions, over three more treys per 100 than the runner up in that category, the Warriors.

Just like last year's matchup, you'll have MVP-hopeful James Harden meeting DPOY hopeful Rudy Gobert at the rim, the engines for their respective stellar units. The slew of players Utah throws at Harden, led by Joe Ingles, will only hope to contain the man who became the fourth different player ever to average at least 36 points per game over a full season.

3 Players to Watch

Donovan Mitchell

Utah's second-half surge was thanks in large part to their 22-year-old stud, who was on fire over the season's last three months. The explosive shooting guard averaged 26.9 points and 4.9 assists over his final 40 games, which included shooting 41% from deep and a 46-point outburst in his last game of the regular season.

Who Houston chooses to guard Mitchell in this series will be interesting, as the Rockets no longer have Trevor Ariza who held Mitchell to 10-of-29 shooting in last year's playoff matchup. Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker and Harden all took their shot at the challenging task during the regular season.

It was the first round of the 2018 playoffs where Mitchell dominated Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, scoring over 28 points per game in the series and officially alerted the league he was an emerging superstar. A repeat performance will likely be needed to get the Jazz to Round 2.

Chris Paul

Yes, it's no surprise the nine-time all-star and HOF lock is a player to watch in any series. But this year the spotlight might be a little hotter on the soon-to-be 34-year-old who has never reached The Finals.

Paul set career-lows in points per game (15.6), field goal percentage (41.9), and win shares (6.6) this year, while missing a month with a hamstring injury. Haters will be more than ready to declare CP3 "finished" if his sub-standard play continues in the playoffs, and say his window for a ring has closed.

More tangibly, Paul's shooting strengths could be critical to Houston's offensive success in this series. Despite the aforementioned struggles, the point guard has shot a scorching 47.6% on midrange jumpers since the start of the 2017-18 season, eighth-best in the league for anyone with at least 140 attempts over that span.

Given Utah's stinginess around the arc, Paul's scoring could once again prove vital to the Rockets' chances of advancing. Especially considering the last time we saw Houston in the playoffs - Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals - they set an NBA record with an astonishing 27 straight missed three-pointers. Paul missed that game with another hamstring injury, and Houston sure could've used his midrange proficiency to balance out their ice cold attack.

Kyle Korver

After limping to a 10-12 start with a sputtering offense that ranked 24th in efficiency, the Jazz brought Korver back to Utah in exchange for Alec Burks and two second-round picks on November 29,. Since Korver's first game, where he held true to form by knocking down four threes, the Jazz own the league's eighth-best offensive rating and fourth-best true shooting percentage (.580).

The 38-year-old's 131 career games and 39.1% 3-point shooting in the playoffs will be critical to a relatively inexperienced Jazz team, who do not have a consistent second-scorer behind Mitchell.

Fast Facts

- This will be the ninth time the Jazz and Rockets meet in the playoffs. Utah won five of the first eight matchups.

- The Rockets will be making their seventh consecutive playoff appearance, coinciding with the acquisition of James Harden in 2012. They've advanced past Round 1 in three of the postseasons in the Harden era.

- Utah is making their third consecutive playoff series and has advanced to the semifinals in each of the last two seasons, which were head coach Quin Snyder's first two playoff appearances.

- Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni has a 43-44 playoff record through eight career appearances. He's advanced to the Conference Finals twice; with Phoenix in 2006 and the Rockets last season.

- Joe Ingles averaged 7.5 assists after this year's All-Star break, good for 10th in the league and second-most among non-point guards.

- In 11 games since the start of the 2017-18 season, Houston center Clint Capela has averaged 3.1 blocks per game against the Jazz. That's a full block more than Jazz counterpart, Rudy Gobert (2.1), has posted in those matchups.

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