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Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz calls a play as he brings the ball up the court against the Portland Trail Blazers during their game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 25, 2018 in Salt Lake City , Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
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Jazz, Rockets Expect Rubio To Make A Difference In Series

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – According to both sides of the matchup, Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio is expected to make a major impact in the first round playoffs series between Utah and the Houston Rockets.

Last season, Rubio missed the second round playoff series against Houston with a hamstring injury. With their starting point guard out, the Jazz were eliminated by the Rockets in five games.

Rubio was a little banged up to end the 2018-19 regular season and missed the three games of the year with a quad contusion, although it’s possible that he could have been held out to rest up for the postseason.

This year, the Spanish point guard is expected to play in the playoffs against Houston.

The other member of the Jazz’s backcourt, Donovan Mitchell, says Rubio will make an splash just like he did in last year’s first round series victory over Oklahoma City.

“If you look at what he did against OKC last year, obviously it was his first playoff series but look at the impact he had. We missed him last year, this year he’s playing at a different level,” said Mitchell.

While his scoring average has dipped a bit from last year to this year, Rubio’s assist numbers have risen this season. Mitchell says that Rubio’s ability to be the primary ballhandler will be a huge help for the Jazz this time around against the Rockets.

Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni agrees, saying the Jazz will be a tougher team with Rubio in the lineup.

“They didn’t have Rubio last year. So just that alone makes them a better team,” said D’Antoni.

Game 1 of the playoffs series between Utah and Houston will begin on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and be televised on TNT.