Utah Jazz vs Houston Rockets – Game 1
NBA: 3.30 PM EST
April 29, 2018
The Utah Jazz will follow up their impressive first-round showing against Oklahoma City with a much more daunting task, that of traveling to Houston to take on the top-seeded Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Rockets dispatched of the #8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves in 5 games, clinching the series at home on Wednesday night in a comfortable 122-104 win. The Jazz, meanwhile, were pushed to six games by the Thunder, eventually finishing them off in Salt Lake City in a 96-91 final on Thursday night.
The most important caveat is that the Jazz will be without starting PG Ricky Rubio, who shined in his first-round series, even frustrating opponent Russell Westbrook to the point that Russ made a point of telling the media that Rubio would not see continued success. Alec Burks saw an increased role after Rubio’s departure in the first quarter of Game 6, and the question remains whether Burks will continue to play more minutes, or if the ever-shrouded Dante Exum will make a long-awaited return to the national spotlight after a shoulder injury.
What stands out to me is that the Rockets were played tightly in Game 1 against Minnesota, winning by just 3 points, despite demonstrating in the remainder of the series that they are the far superior team. Utah also showed that they can play in a hostile environment, winning Game 2 in Oklahoma City and having a stranglehold on Game 5 in that arena as well before the improbable Thunder comeback forced a Game 6. With the Jazz playing at a near-elite level defensively in these playoffs thus far (3rd in overall DTRG in the first round), I like them to at least stay competitive against a Rockets team that has struggled at times offensively in the postseason.
Our NBA Free Tip: Utah Jazz +12