Series Review: Jazz vs. Rockets

As Utah's season comes to an end and the Rockets soar to the Western Conference Finals, let's take a look at what led to the ultimate demise of the Jazz's season and what propelled Houston to their first Conference Finals appearance since 2015.

As the Houston Rockets sprint into the Western Conference Finals to meet the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors, the Jazz are left an innocent bystander to Houston's high powered offense. Despite Utah's Game 2 victory in Houston, their grind it out style of play was no match for the Rockets superstar-driven backcourt. So as the Jazz head off to Cancun, and the Rockets blast off to Golden State, let's look at what led to the ultimate dismantling of Utah.

Star Power

Heading into this series, it was no secret Houston had the clear talent edge over Utah. Led by two superstar talents in Chris Paul and James Harden, it seemed that every game, at least one of them couldn't miss a shot. For example, in Game 5, Chris Paul LITERALLY didn't miss a shot in the last five minutes. Furthermore, although James Harden was having a bad shooting night, he is still James Harden and the defense always has to worry about him. The other luxury of having two superstars is that one is always on the court. If Chris Paul needs a break, the defense still has to worry about this year's likely MVP in Harden. However, Utah was forced to rely on guys like Alec Burks and Joe Ingles to initiate the offense whenever Donovan Mitchell took a breather. Although solid role players, without Ricky Rubio in this series it was tough for Utah to match Houston's intensity off the bench.

Absence Of Ricky Rubio

There is no doubt that Ricky Rubio played a crucial role in Utah's series win over the Thunder. Having multiple 20+ point games, Rubio not only dismantled Oklahoma City's defense but also got under the skin of Russell Westbrook. Rubio was undoubtedly a big part of Quin Snyder's gameplan to keep the offense going while Mitchell was off the court. However, due to a hamstring strain, Rubio was rendered useless for most of the series. And as I mentioned before, due to their superstar tandem, the Rockets are an offensive threat at all points during the game. So you can imagine the struggles when the Rockets sport at least one superstar guard on the court at all times. The Jazz, on the other hand, had to work with just Donovan Mitchell; while Mitchell is an incredible talent, he was also just a rookie in only his second playoff series. 

Key Takeaways

  • At his best, Donovan Mitchell can somehow best both Chris Paul and James Harden. In the third quarter of game five, Donovan Mitchell outscored the entire Rockets team 22-21. 
  • Clint Capela is becoming an elite NBA center. Coming into this series, it was a must that Rudy Gobert dominated the paint. Although Gobert had a solid series with some great plays, Clint Capela more than held his own. 
  • Chris Paul is ready for the Conference Finals. If Game 5 wasn't enough proof that Chris Paul is one of the greatest point guards we have ever seen, I don't know what is. He made pretty much every shot that he took in that fourth quarter and finished with 41 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds. 
  • Joe Ingles is worth his contract. Although many Jazz fans were upset with Joe Ingles' four-year, $52 million contract, he has proven his worth in these playoffs. Ingles is one of the most underrated ball handlers/facilitators in the league and consistently scored 20+ points per game in the postseason.
  • Houston is dangerous. Although I don't think the Rockets are good enough to beat the Warriors in a seven-game series, this Houston team is scary going forward. Chris Paul and James Harden only seem to get better. On top of that, the sudden rise of Clint Capela means that the Rockets will be a very competitive team for years to come. 
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