Houston Rockets Vs. Utah Jazz

ROUND ONE - Western Conference
Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz Series Preview

In the Western Conference the fourth-seed Utah Jazz (54- 28) finished first in the Northwest Division and beat the Southwest’s Houston Rockets two of three times. Although not the highest scoring team in the West, the Jazz were only second to Los Angeles in plus/minus with a plus-6.9 PF/PA.

At power forward, Carlos Boozer is a force-and-a-half. He’s averaged a double-double, with 10.4 RPG and 21.1 PPG. Boozer has good hands, making 1.23 SPG. On the point, Deron Williams, with 10.5 APG, is fine at finding the open man. Williams, who put up 18.8 PPG, is also a skilled defensive player.

Center Mehmet Okur offers solid scoring (14.5 PPG) and disarming board play (7.7 RPG), while small forward Andrei Kirilenko has averaged 1.19 SPG and 1.51 BPG. Both Williams and Okur are 80% free throw shooters, while Williams and Okur hit threes at the respective rates of 40% and 39%. Ronnie Brewer is the club’s most accurate shooter, making 56% of his shots.

The Yao-less Houston Rockets (55- 27) certainly managed to maintain their poise after their big man was lost for the rest of the year due to injury. The club held opponents to just 92.0 PPG, placing them fourth amongst all playoff teams.

Shooting guard Tracy McGrady and point guard Rafer Alston are both fine defenders and point scorers. McGrady, who averaged 1.03 SPG, put up 21.6 PPG, while Alston notched 1.32 SPG and put up 13.1 PPG. Small forward Shane Battier had 1.13 stuffs a contest and took down 5.1 RPG. Power forward Luis Scola pulled down 6.4 RPG and put in 10.3 PPG.

With Yao Ming gone, the Rockets lost their leading point scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. Although the club still has some good “D,” they may not have the personnel to carry them through the grueling playoff schedule. The team’s point differential is at plus-4.7, which is respectable. From three-point land, opponents are hitting 37% of their efforts. That is bad news and better than the Rockets’ 34% rate.

Houston has played tough all season. But Utah may simply have too much offense for the Rockets to have a shot at winning the series.

Maddux Sports Series Prediction:

Utah Jazz in 6 Games

Enjoy Maddux Sports' NBA playoff coverage throughout the 2008 postseason.


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