Numbers preview: Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz
The Houston Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA playoffs. They took care of business in the first round, dispatching the Minnesota Timberwolves in five games.
They’re just one step away from possibly facing the champion Golden State Warriors in the playoff matchup that we’ve all been anticipating for months. But this step promises to be much tougher than the last one, because the second best team in the Western Conference over the last three months hasn’t been the Warriors. It’s been the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz won 29 of their last 35 games in the regular season, with the league’s best defense (by a wide margin) and the 11th-ranked offense over that time. And in the first round, they beat a team (Oklahoma City) with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and home-court advantage. They have an elite defense, they have a budding star in rookie Donovan Mitchell, and they play together.
It’s a matchup of the No. 2 offense and the No. 2 defense in the regular season, as well as a meeting of the favorite for MVP (James Harden) and the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year (Rudy Gobert).
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Western Conference semis, with links to let you dive in and explore more. Game 1 is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Houston Rockets (65-17, 4-1)
First round: Beat Minnesota in 5 games.
Pace: 97.0 (9)
OffRtg: 113.3 (2)
DefRtg: 105.1 (7)
NetRtg: +8.2 (3)
Rockets first round notes – Team:
- Averaged just 8.6 turnovers per 100 possessions, the lowest rate in the first round and down from 13.8 per 100 in the regular season. Assist-turnover ratio of 2.48 is the highest mark in the playoffs by a wide margin. Had an assist-turnover ratio of 5.80, the highest for any first-round game, in Game 5.
- Took 49 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the highest rate in the first round. Outscored Minnesota by 90 points from 3-point range, even though the Wolves ranked first in first-round 3-point percentage and the Rockets ranked 12th. Their 18.6 pull-up 3-point attempts per game are more than six more than any other team has averaged in the playoffs thus far.
- Isolated on 11.9 percent of their possessions, down from a league-high 14.5 percent in the regular season. Scored only 0.97 points per possession on isolations, down from 1.12 in the regular season.
- Averaged 51 drives per game, most in the first round.
- Rank 15th in player movement (9.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and 16th in ball movement (260 passes per 24 minutes of possession) in the playoffs.
Rockets first round notes – Individuals:
- Trevor Ariza took all 46 of his shots from the restricted area (12) or 3-point range (34).
- Clint Capela had an effective field goal percentage of 67.3 percent, the second best mark among players who have attempted at least 50 shots in the first round thus far.
- Capela leads the playoffs in offensive rebounding percentage, having grabbed 16.1 percent of available offensive boards while he was on the floor. He ranks second in both defensive rebounding percentage (36.4 percent) and total rebounding percentage (25.5 percent). He was the only player to have played at least 100 postseason minutes and grabbed at least half of his team’s rebounds while he was on the floor.
- Capela’s 6.4 screen assists per game rank second in the playoffs.
- Eric Gordon averaged 6.0 wide-open 3-point attempts, tied for most in the first round. But he shot just 8-for-30 (27 percent) on those wide open threes. He shot just 9-for-34 (26 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the third worst mark among players who have attempted at least 20 in the first round.
- James Harden ranks second in postseason usage rate, having used 37 percent of the Rockets’ possessions while he’s been on the floor.
- Harden (10.5), Gerald Green (10.2) and Gordon (10.0) were three of four players (minimum 50 minutes played) to average at least 10 3-point attempts per 36 minutes in the first round.
- Chris Paul averaged 9.6 points in the paint, up from 4.4 in the regular season. He shot 13-for-23 (57 percent) on non-restricted-area paint shots, the best mark among players who have attempted at least 15 in the playoffs.
- P.J. Tucker (8) and Ariza (7) rank second and third in corner 3-pointers, respectively, in the playoffs. In the first round, Tucker was 6-for-9 from the right corner and 2-for-7 from the left corner.
- See Rockets-Wolves preview for regular season notes.
Utah Jazz (48-34, 4-2)
First round: Beat Oklahoma City in 6 games.
Pace: 99.9 (5)
OffRtg: 106.3 (9)
DefRtg: 100.7 (3)
NetRtg: +5.6 (6)
Jazz first round notes – Team:
- Held the Thunder to 6.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the regular season (107.6). Only Cleveland (-10.0) has seen a bigger drop in OffRtg from the regular season to the playoffs than Oklahoma City.
- Were a plus-39 in the second quarter and a minus-12 otherwise.
- Averaged 19.7 wide open 3-point attempts, most in the first round (the Rockets were second at 19.6).
- Took 75 percent of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range. Only the Rockets (81 percent) had a higher rate in the first round.
- Rank fourth in player movement (10.8 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and seventh in ball movement (318 passes per 24 minutes of possession) in the playoffs.
- The top five two-man combinations (and seven of the top nine) in regard to on-court NetRtg (minimum 100 minutes played) belong to combinations of Utah starters. But the Jazz ranked 14th in aggregate bench NetRtg (minus-10.8 points per 100 possessions) in the first round.
Jazz first round notes – Individuals:
- Jae Crowder took 67 percent of his shots from 3-point range, up from 51 percent in the regular season. That was the biggest jump among players with at least 300 field goal attempts in the regular season and at least 50 in the first round.
- Rudy Gobert (0.755) and Derrick Favors (0.596) had the two highest free throw rates (FTA/FGA) among players with at least 40 field goal attempts in the first round, though they shot a combined 58 percent from the line.
- With Gobert on the floor, the Thunder got only 28 percent of their shots in the restricted area. With Gobert off the floor, the Thunder got 43 percent of their shots in the restricted area.
- Joe Ingles leads the postseason with 18 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and 10 corner threes.
- The Jazz outscored the Thunder by 71 points with Ingles on the floor, giving him the best raw plus-minus of the first round.
- Donovan Mitchell led all rookies in the first round in minutes per game (38.6) and points per game (28.5).
- Mitchell scored 1.35 points per possession on isolations, the second best mark among players who have averaged at least three isolation possessions per game in the playoffs.
- Mitchell averaged 10.2 field goal attempts per game in the restricted area, second most in the first round.
- Ricky Rubio was one of four players with a first-round triple-double, registering 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 3 vs. OKC.
- See Thunder-Jazz preview for regular season notes.
Regular season matchup
Season series: Rockets won 4-0
Nov. 5 @ Houston – Rockets 137, Jazz 110
Dec. 7 @ Utah – Rockets 112, Jazz 101
Dec. 18 @ Houston – Rockets 120, Jazz 99
Feb. 26 @ Utah – Rockets 96, Jazz 85
Pace: 98.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Houston OffRtg: 118.1 (1st vs. Utah)
Utah OffRtg: 100.6 (21st vs. Houston)
- Chris Paul missed the first meeting, while Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson all missed the fourth meeting for Houston.
- Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors both missed the third meeting for Utah. Jae Crowder was only with the Jazz for the final meeting.
- None of the four games was the second of a back-to-back for Utah. The final meeting (Feb. 26) was the second game of a road back-to-back for Houston. It was in the middle of a 21-2 stretch for the Jazz and Game 13 of a 17-game winning streak for the Rockets.
- None of the four games were within five points in the last five minutes. The total point differential (the Rockets outscored the Jazz by 70 points over the four games) was the fifth largest in any season series this season and the largest in any series between playoff teams.
- The Rockets outscored the Jazz by 21 points per game (50.3 – 29.3) on 3-point shots. Joe Ingles shot 6-for-20 (30 percent) from 3-point range, his lowest mark against any Western Conference opponent.
- The Jazz grabbed just 14.1 percent of available offensive rebounds, their lowest rate against any opponent this season. They grabbed only six offensive rebounds in more than 74 minutes with Capela on the floor. Gobert grabbed less than 15 percent of available rebounds while he was on the floor, his lowest rebounding percentage against any opponent.
- Paul recorded his only triple-double of the season (18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) in the Dec. 18 game.
- James Harden had the highest scoring average (34.3 points per game) among players that played at least two games against the Jazz. The 56 points Harden scored on Nov. 5 were his second highest scoring game of the season and 11 more than any other player scored in a game against Utah.
- Donovan Mitchell (63) and Ingles (61) defended Harden for about the same number of possessions. Harden scored less against Ingles, though the Rockets’ offense was efficient in either case.
- Trevor Ariza was the primary defender on Mitchell, who had an effective field goal percentage of just 44 percent and more turnovers (seven) than assists (four) on those possessions.
- With Gobert on the floor, Harden got only 26 percent (9/35) of his shots in the restricted area (overall, he took 31 percent of his shots in the restricted area this season). But Harden had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.686 in those 77 minutes, much higher than his overall rate of 0.502.
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