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NBA Playoffs 2019: Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets Game Preview

The Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets will lock horns in the Western Conference First Round, and the opening game is set for this Sunday, April 14, 2019, at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The fourth-seeded Rockets are listed as -300 favorites to win the series, while the fifth-seeded Jazz is a +240 underdog to reach the semifinals. The regular-season series was finished in a 2-2 tie whereas each team has been victorious on the road once. This will be a rematch of the last year’s conference semis when Houston defeated Utah in five games.   NBA: Sunday, April 14, 2019, Toyota Center, Houston, Texas, 9:30 PM ET

The Jazz is searching for its third conference semifinals in a row

The Utah Jazz (50-32; 44-36-2 ATS) finished the regular season with a 143-137 overtime loss at the Los Angeles Clippers, recording its second defeat over the last three outings. Still, the Jazz was safe and sound at the 5th spot of the conference standings, and Utah won 13 of its previous 16 games overall, covering the spread 11 times in that span. The Jazz went 18-7 after the All-Star break, while Utah is 5-3 straight up and 6-2 ATS in its previous eight showings on the road. They enter the playoffs with some minor injury worries, as Ricky Rubio (quad), Kyle Korver (knee) and Raul Neto (ankle) are listed as questionable, but Donovan Mitchell (spasm) and Rudy Gobert (ankle) are ready for action.

Donovan Mitchell is leading the way for the Jazz, averaging 23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game while making 43.2% of his field goals. Rudy Gobert is posting 15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per contest. Joe Ingles is tallying 12.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.7 dimes per game, while Ricky Rubio is adding 12.7 points and 6.1 assists a night. The Jazz is scoring 110.9 points per 100 possessions (15th in the league) on 46.8% shooting from the field (11th) and 35.6% from beyond the arc (tied-10th), allowing 105.7 points in a return (2nd) on 45.2% shooting from the field (9th) and 35.5% from downtown (15th).

The Rockets are looking to continue with their strong performance

The Houston Rockets (53-29; 40-39-3 ATS) suffered a 112-111 defeat at the Oklahoma City Thunder in their regular-season finale to put an end to their six-game winning streak. This loss cost them the No. 3 seed in the West, but the Rockets will eventually have to beat the Warriors if they want to fight for the championship. Houston went 20-5 since the All-Star break which is the best record in the league in that span, while the Rockets are riding a seven-game winning streak at Toyota Center. They enter the postseason in full strength following some serious injury problems during the regular season.

James Harden is leading the way for the Rockets, averaging 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game while making 44.2% of his field goals and 36.8% of his 3-pointers. Clint Capela is a go-to-guy in the paint, tallying 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per contest. Chris Paul is posting 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per outing, while Eric Gordon is adding 16.2 points per game on 36.0% shooting from downtown. The Rockets are scoring 115.5 points per 100 possessions (2nd in the league) on 44.9% shooting from the field (24th) and 35.6% from beyond the arc (tied-10th) while taking 46.0 attempts from deep (1st). They are allowing 110.7 points in a return (18th) on 46.6% shooting from the field (21st) and 34.0% from downtown (2nd).

Trends:

Utah Jazz:

  •  2-8 SU and 3-7 ATS in the last ten playoff games as underdogs
  • 3-6 SU and ATS in the last nine meetings with Houston in the postseason

Houston Rockets:

  • 6-1 SU and ATS in the last seven games overall
  •  6-0 SU and 5-0-1 ATS in the last six outings at home

The Winner Prediction

Utah is playing in a good form, but Houston seems unstoppable at the moment, especially on the home court. The Rockets have improved defensively, while their offense is doing a great job all season long. They are finally healthy with James Harden onwards, so I’m backing them to beat the Jazz in the opener and cover the spread. Houston is 10-4 straight up and 8-5-1 ATS in its last 14 home meetings with Utah.

The Pick: Houston Rockets -6.5 (-110)

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