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Rockets to face Jazz in opening round of playoffs

Houston eliminated Utah in the western conference semifinals last season

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, In Houston.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, In Houston. (Associated Press)

HOUSTON – It was a wild final two nights of the regular season and at the end of it all, the Houston Rockets fell into the fourth seed and will open the postseason against the Utah Jazz.

The Rockets would have been the two seed if they had not blown a 14-point fourth-quarter lead on Tuesday night to lose by one after a Paul George 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining.

Then on the final night of the season, Houston still would have been the two seed, if the Nuggets had not overcome an 11-point deficit with just over three minutes remaining.

Houston would have been the three seed, had the Blazers - who rested nearly all of their normal rotation players - not come back from a 25-point halftime deficit to beat the Kings.

So the Rockets will face the Jazz for the second postseason in a row. The Rockets beat the Jazz four games to one in the Western Conference semifinals last season. Houston split their season series with Utah this season with each team winning twice.

Both Jazz victories came early in the season, each of those two Houston losses pushed the Rockets toward that miserable 11-14 start to the season.

 

 

Since then as the Rockets rose along with Harden's performance, the Rockets beat Utah 102-97 in mid-December, then again in February by a wide margin, 125-97.

Harden averaged 33.5 points per game against the Jazz on 46.6 percent shooting. 

Of note, the Rockets' roster changed quite a bit over the season and Kenneth Faried and Austin Rivers only played against Utah once. Clint Capela missed one of the three meetings, Chris Paul missed two of the games.

Each of the Jazz' top seven players in their rotation played in all four meetings with Houston.

Second-year star Donovan Mitchell averaged 23.3 points per game but shot just 40 percent overall and just 26.7 percent on three-pointers. 

Rudy Gobert averaged just 10.5 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks against the Rockets, compared to 16.1 points, 13 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game against the rest of the league.

 

 

Series Schedule (times listed are central):

Game 1: Sunday, at Houston, 8:30 p.m.
Game 2: Wednesday, at Houston, 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday, at Utah, 9:30 p.m.
Game 4: Monday, 4/22 at Utah, 9:30 p.m.
*Game 5: Wednesday, 4/24 at Houston, Time TBD
*Game 6: Friday, 4/26 at Utah, Time TBD
*Game 7: Sunday, 4/28 at Houston, Time TBD
* if necessary