Just like the Thunder of Oklahoma City series, the Utah Jazz face a team that has not had to face them in their current form. The Oklahoma City Thunder discovered the hard way that the Utah team they faced four times before December were significantly worse than the team they faced in the first round. This difference was found to contribute to their demise as they lost 4-2 to a Utah team that played faster, better in defense and had a superstar in the making, Donovan mitchell. The Houston rockets would be wise to learn from their northern brethren and avoid their missteps.

The Houston Rockets, the NBA’s best regular season team, have been as close as a team can be to a living buzzsaw as they beat the best in the league, racking up 64 regular season wins and nearly dominating. all the teams they face. That dominance included Utah Jazz losing three times to the Houston Rockets even before the end of December was reached. The Houston Rockets have only faced the Utah Jazz once in their current form when Utah was without Raul neto and Dante Exum and shortly after the acquisition of Utah Jae Crowder. The Rockets took advantage of Utah’s period of adaptation to life without Rodney Hood and Joe johnson while lacking leadership depth in beating Utah 96-85.

During the season, the Utah Jazz were essentially the basketball equivalent of a doormat when they faced the Houston Rockets. James harden averaged 34 points per game against the Utah Jazz while shooting 43% from a three-point field. He’s averaging +23.3 when he’s on the pitch. Utah’s inability to stop Harden put them on the wrong side of two different eruptions.

Utah Jazz vs Houston Rockets – February 26

The last game of the series of the season between these two teams, we were able to get a slight glimpse of what a clash could look like. Both teams faced injuries with Houston missing Ryan anderson, Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela. The Utah Jazz were missing Raul neto, Dante Exum, and were still grappling with the aftermath of the Rodney Hood swap, releasing Joe johnson, and the acquisition Jae Crowder.

In this game, Donovan mitchell had only 16 points on 5 of 15 shots while shooting 1 in 9 of three. The kind of game Ben simmons Stans loves to jump on it to show that Donovan Mitchell is nothing but a volume marker. Donovan Mitchell has only played one game all season where he took as many three and shot a lower percentage: March 20 against the juggernaut Atlanta hawks.

during this time Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder combined to shoot 2 of 14 from the outside. Joe Ingles had no other impact on the game. He had just 3 rebounds and 3 assists in a game Rubio only played 26 minutes. Most will remember Ricky rubio was working in the rotation again after suffering – you’ll never guess what – a hamstring injury. Rubio has been struggling with the nagging injury since February.

On the other side of basketball, the Houston Rockets were adjusting to a shortened bench as they faced injuries and illnesses. James harden had 26 points on 13 very efficient shots and reached the line 12 times. Chris Paul had a very Ricky rubio-esque line of statistics of 15 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. The extraordinary jazz killer Luc Mbah a Moute added 17 points.

While the final score of this game makes it seem like the Houston Rockets controlled the game from start to finish, winning 96-85, the Utah Jazz actually went to halftime with a 44-39 lead. . Utah Jazz did it despite Ricky rubio isn’t playing his best and Donovan Mitchell has a Spida-man moment. So how did Utah control the game until half-time? Well, reason should give Utah Jazz fans hope.

Royce O’Neale.

Before Royce O’Neale recorded, Utah was playing hard. They were making points before his submarine, much like Tesla makes Model 3s: slow, robotic, and riddled with frequent breakdowns. Then Royce O’Neale came in. If you look at Royce O’Neale’s stat line, it doesn’t jump out at you (2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), but his effort changed the course of the first half. He was a devastating defense, disturbing James Harden and keeping him 0-3 by shooting beyond the arc. Meanwhile, his enthusiasm and energy breathed life into a slow attack from the Utah Jazz. Utah picked up the pace, picked up points in transition and accelerated the game. While Utah had a much bigger run after he left, thanks to Jonas Jerebko‘s fuss, Jae Crowder is mad, and Rudy Gobertthe perfect shooting back, Royce O’Neale changed the course of this game. That’s a big plot point for this upcoming playoff series, especially with the news that Ricky Rubio will be off duty due to his hamstring injury.

So what happened in the second half?

The Houston Rockets have adapted to the role of the Utah players. The strength of the team may be the team, but Utah role players cannot maintain success if Donovan Mitchell has poor play. Donovan Mitchell is the cornerstone of this team. Its success is necessary to win. Ricky Rubio had a tough second half, Joe Ingles never found his rhythm, bad Jae Crowder made an appearance and the Houston Rockets held back the defense to capitalize on Utah’s lack of playmakers. with Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell struggling to make up for Ricky Rubio.

It’s such a small sample size with a lot of extra variables missing then being added to the equation now. The Houston Rockets would be crazy to assume they can apply the same basketball theorems learned from playing regular-season Jazz to this series. The Utah Jazz, however, have plenty of game movies about this current Houston Rockets team when they faced them.

Moving forward

So what can the Utah Jazz get out of this one game of having their current squad?

With the news that Ricky Rubio will be out for Game 1 and possibly weeks after, Royce O’Neale has become the most important person in the Utah Jazz’s success in this series. Quin Snyder Quite possibly will do something completely unheard of, throw two rookie guards into fire and throw them both against the NBA’s best team in the playoffs. Royce O’Neale is going to have to probably keep the NBA MVP. His performance in this series will make the difference between a Jazz upheaval or a sweep.

Joe Ingles is going to have to spell Ricky Rubio for this series. While Royce O’Neale will be tasked with replacing Ricky Rubio’s defense and energy, Joe Ingles will have to replace playmaker Ricky Rubio. Joe Ingles has shown his ability to get double-digit assists. If Joe Ingles averages 7 or more assists for this series, the Utah Jazz will have pushed the Houston Rockets in Game 6 or Game 7.

For the Utah Jazz to have a chance in this series, Donovan Mitchell has to have the series of his life just one series after having the series of his life. If the Utah Jazz push the Houston Rockets to six or seven games, that will mean Donovan Mitchell has entered uncontested Superstars territory. Against Oklahoma City, he had to put his own in the center of the Thunder’s defensive game plan while being guarded by Corey Brewer, Russell westbrook, and Paul George. Against the Houston Rockets, the degree of difficulty will be increased since Luc Mbah a Moute will give Donovan 48 minutes of hell.

Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Utah Jazz have shown that while their offense is struggling, their elite defense can keep them within striking distance. Against Houston, this immobile defense will meet an unstoppable attack. It is the ultimate game of opposites. Because of that defense, one would assume that Utah is going to want to slow down the game against the Rockets, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Utah Jazz averaged nearly 100 possessions per game. That’s good for 5th place in the playoffs and about 3 possessions faster per game than the Houston Rockets in the playoffs. If Houston plays fast, they don’t gain any advantage.

As we approach Game 1 of this series, it’s important to note that we know very little about how these two teams react when combined on the pitch together. Utah Jazz could last without Ricky Rubio for a whole series. The Houston Rockets could explode taking advantage of Utah’s lack of playoff experience, which OKC failed to do. Or the Utah defense could nullify any advantage and return the game to Utah conditions.

Much like the OKC series, we will learn a lot after this first game and how this series could play out. In the meantime, we only have 48 minutes of limited action starting in February to extrapolate a whole series of playoffs. For Jazz fans, they expect to see more of the first 24 minutes than the last 24 minutes.