Mike D’Antoni Expects ‘Tough’ Series Against Utah
HOUSTON, Texas – The Utah Jazz’s first round opponent in the playoffs, the Houston Rockets, are preparing to host the Jazz in Game 1 in Houston on Sunday.
According to Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, any matchup in the crowded Western Conference would have been a tough one, but his team is ready to face Utah in the postseason for the second straight year.
“That’s our total focus, is Utah. We know what a good team and obviously a great coach and some great players and it’ll be tough. But I could substitute that name for a lot of other teams in the West and it’ll be the same thing. No matter who you get, it’s like ‘Oh no, not that team.’ But that’s just the way it is,” said D’Antoni.
The Rockets faced the Jazz in the second round of the playoffs last season and ended Utah’s season by eliminating the Jazz in five games.
Postseason practice. 🚀 pic.twitter.com/BMjXYF5Etz
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 12, 2019
This year, however, D’Antoni is expecting a better squad, mostly because Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio, who missed the series last season, is expected to play this year.
“They didn’t have Rubio last year. So just that alone makes them a better team. They have Korver, that’s a weapon. Yeah, they’re a better team,” said D’Antoni, mentioning Utah’s acquisition of sharpshooter Kyle Korver in a trade earlier this season.
The Rockets come into the series as one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having won an NBA-best 20 games since the All-Star break. The Jazz, however, aren’t far behind with 18 wins since the break.
For Houston, which began the season on shaky ground, the late-season push was good, but not enough to clench a higher seed in the playoffs.
RT to congratulate @JHarden13 on winning Western Conference Player of the Month for both March & April! 🚀 pic.twitter.com/hfhKquSAO6
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 11, 2019
“Since the All-Star break, we’ve done everything even better than what had to do. Gotta give credit to Denver and Portland and they played well. They played really well down the stretch. I thought we played better and we did but not quite good enough,” said D’Antoni.
Still, D’Antoni says he likes his chances against Utah. Against the Jazz this season the series record was split with each team winning two games. D’Antoni says he won’t throw anything new at the Jazz and doesn’t expect Utah head coach Quin Snyder to make any drastic changes either.
“I think we know them really well, they know us really well,” said D’Antoni. “Basically you don’t change what you do, our philosophy and their philosophy is going to be the same. So it’s just competing and who is going exert their will, impose their will on the other team is the time that’s going to win.”
Game 1 of the series between Houston and Utah will tip off Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and be broadcast on TNT.
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