UTAH JAZZ

Jazz ‘Excited’ To Face Houston In Postseason Again

Apr 12, 2019, 7:38 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It took a lot of different things coming together for the Utah Jazz to face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

According to Jazz center Rudy Gobert, it may have been something close to divine intervention.

“It’s almost like the basketball gods wanted us to play Houston,” said Gobert following his team’s practice on Friday.

For Utah to draw Houston, both Denver and Portland had to win on the last night of the regular season. The Trail Blazers, who elected to rest All-Star Damian Lillard in the game against the Sacramento Kings, overcame a 28-point deficit to win. In the other game, Denver overtook the Minnesota Timberwolves in the final minute to seal Utah’s fate.

Many felt that Houston, the hottest team in the NBA, would be the worst first round matchup for the Jazz.

The Jazz however, are fired up about facing the team that eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs last season.

“It’s exciting. I think we all are. Obviously it was an intense series last year,” said Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. “Unfortunately we didn’t have the full team last year so I think we’re a little more excited this year coming back with everybody healthy. We’re familiar with them, they’re familiar with us, there’s going to be no surprises.”

Last season, the Jazz were forced to play without starting point guard Ricky Rubio, who was lost for the entire five game series with a hamstring injury. This season, Rubio is expected to play and make a considerable impact on the series.

While they may be facing the same team that defeated them in the postseason last year, this year’s Houston squad presents new challenges and opportunities for the Jazz.

Citing Houston’s different look with players like Austin Rivers, Iman Shumpert and others, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder is aware of the differences from the series in 2018. He did however, say there is one significant common threat from last year.

“There’s a lot of things about their team that are different. Who they are, still, is James. And there’s no better player in the league,” said Snyder.

By “James,” Snyder was referring to Houston’s MVP candidate James Harden.

Harden captured the MVP trophy last season and has been even better this season with a career high scoring average of 36.1 points per game, a mark that led the NBA by over eight points. He, along with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, are considered to be the front runners for this season’s MVP honors.

The Rockets also boost perennial All-NBA point guard Chris Paul. While he missed a large portion of the season due to injury, he’s still a savvy talented veteran that could cause problems for Utah. It’s the third straight season that he’s met the Jazz in the playoffs, counting last season with Houston and two years ago when he was with the LA Clippers.

The series between Utah and Houston will begin Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Houston. The game will be broadcast on TNT.

 

 

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