HOUSTON – The Rockets and Jazz will begin their first-round playoff matchup Sunday in Houston.
The teams are familiar with each other, not only in recent years, but historically.
Houston has made the playoffs seven straight years, and beat Utah in five games in the second round of the playoffs last season.
This season, fourth-seeded Houston went 53-29 in the regular season. Fifth-seeded Utah went 50-32.
The teams split the four-game regular-season series, with the Jazz winning the first two games and the Rockets winning the last two. The last time they played each other was on Feb. 2 and the Rockets won the game 125-98 in Utah.
The NBA's possible MVP, James Harden, led the way for Houston this season. The team averaged 113.9 points per game, with Harden accounting for 36.1 per game. No other player averaged more than 16.6 points per game (Clint Capela). Harden also provided 7.5 assists per game and 6.6 rebounds per contest.
Houston held opponents to 109.1 points per game, the NBA's 10th best mark.
Since the 2012-2013 season, the Jazz have made the playoffs twice, losing in the Western Conference semifinals each time.
During the regular season this year, Utah held opponents to 106.5 points per game, the league's fourth-best mark. The offense averaged 111.7, which ranked 17th out of 30 NBA teams.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were Utah's workhorses this season. Gobert averaged 15.9 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. Mitchell accounted for 23.8 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest.
As for head coaches, Rockets leader Mike D'Antoni has a career 628-499 record. D'Antoni, 67, has been coaching for 15 seasons and was named the NBA's Coach of the Year with the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-2005 season and with the Rockets in the 2016-2017 season. In his three seasons in Houston, D'Antoni has a 173-73 record. D'Antoni has a 43-44 career playoff mark, including a 17-11 record while with the Rockets.
Quin Snyder, 52, has been the head coach of the Jazz for five seasons. He has a career 227-183 record. Snyder's playoff record is 9-13.
Houston and Utah had a bitter rivalry in the '90s. Houston made the playoffs seven straight seasons between 1992 and 1999, winning back-to-back championships in the 1993-1994 season and in the 1994-1995 season.
On the way to the first of two titles, Houston had to go through the Jazz in the Western Conference Finals in the 1993-1994 season. The Rockets didn't have to sweat too much in the series, winning 4-1. The only game Houston lost to Utah this series was in Utah.
The Jazz were a bit of a problem for the Rockets en route to their second straight title. Houston faced Utah in the first round in the 1994-1995 playoffs. The Rockets lost two of the first three games before rallying to win the final two games of the series to advance.
In the 1997-1998 season, the Rockets and the Jazz faced off in the Western Conference Finals. Utah won the series in six games. Houston lost the first two games, won the next two and then lost the final two to lose the series 4-2.
The Jazz beat the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs in the 1997-1998 season. Utah won the best-of-five series with a 84-70 victory in Game 5. The Rockets lost the final two games of the series after winning two of the first three games.
The Jazz also beat the Rockets in the 1984-1985 playoffs. Houston lost the first-round series 3-2.
Here is the Houston-Utah playoff history:
- 2018 Western Conference semifinals - Houston defeated Utah 4-1.
- 2008 Western Conference first round - Utah defeated Houston, 4-2.
- 2007 Western Conference first round - Utah defeated Houston, 4-3.
- 1998 Western Conference first round - Utah defeated Houston, 3-2.
- 1997 Western Conference finals - Utah defeated Houston, 4-2.
- 1995 Western Conference first round - Houston defeated Utah, 3-2.
- 1994 Western Conference finals - Houston defeated Utah, 4-1.
- 1985 Western Conference first round - Utah defeated Houston, 3-2.