Houston Rockets: The stat the team must improve on against Utah Jazz

Houston Rockets guards James Harden and Chris Paul (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets guards James Harden and Chris Paul (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets now own the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and they’ll face the Utah Jazz in the first round. What must they improve on against? Look.

Houston Rockets fans — the playoffs are here and it’s time to watch our team do battle for the next few months to hopefully be among the last standing when the dust settles.  The NBA Finals will be in June and it’s a long road but I know this team has what it takes to go the distance.

The Houston Rockets have locked up the No. 4 seed after the Denver Nuggets were able to successfully beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-95 last night, putting them one game ahead of them.

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 136-131, which put them in a tie with the Houston Rockets but the Blazers own the tiebreaker as they won the season series 2-1.

So the 4th seed it is for the Houston Rockets and it’s going to be one hell of matchup that’s on deck for this team.

The Houston Rockets are quite familiar with the Jazz but it’s going to be far from similar to last season’s second-round matchup.  This current rendition of the Jazz has been together one season longer and they’ve matured as a result.

They are relentless on defense and rose to the No. 2 team in defensive efficiency this season, allowing a measly 103.2 points per 100 possessions.  This is the exact same spot they held back in 2017-18, with the exception of them holding opponents to 101.6 points per 100, a full 2.4 points less than this season.

So to say that the Houston Rockets have their hands full is an understatement but I think they will prevail; but this, by any means will not be a cakewalk.

What’s the most troubling stat that the Houston Rockets have against the Jazz?

It’s their team assists.

The Houston Rockets averaged 15.5 assists in the season series against the Jazz, the fewest out of any opponent they’ve played this season.

The Jazz suffocated and didn’t allow much ball movement by the Rockets, that’s got to improve in order for this team to be successful.  I have a feeling it will as it’s a different gear shifted for the playoffs.

The Houston Rockets split the season series 2-2 against Jazz and here’s a breakdown of the scores through the season:

Oct. 24:  Jazz 100, Rockets 89

Dec. 6: Jazz 118, Rockets 91

Dec. 17: Rockets 102, Jazz 97

Feb. 2: Rockets 125, Jazz 98

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Arguably, the Feb. 2nd game was the best of the season as it exemplified the Houston Rockets at their best.  They gave the Jazz fits, they were fierce on defense and the three-ball was falling.  I’m hoping we see a lot of Feb. 2nd mentality when they take their opponent to task in this series.

I’m positive we’ll see it in spurts but there will be times when they will struggle with the three-ball but I think with the depth of the frontcourt on this roster, they’ll have enough perimeter defense/rebounding to quell the league’s 11th-ranked team in offensive efficiency (108.8 points per 100).

It’s going to be great to see James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela tussle with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and to an lesser extent Royce O’Neale.

Nonetheless, it will be an exciting series and I expect the Houston Rockets to prevail in six games.  Are you with me?  Let’s go!

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The Rockets will face the Jazz for Game 1 at Toyota Center this Sunday, April 14.  Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CDT.