Jazz vs Rockets – NBA Pick for May 2nd

by Rick Rockwell
on May 2, 2018

In Game 2 of this series, the Utah Jazz hope to even things up with a big win in Houston. To accomplish this, the Jazz will have to slow down James Harden who finished Game 1 with 41 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Utah will also have to slow down the Rockets’ quick starts as Houston jumped out to a big lead in Game 1 by scoring 36 points in the 1st quarter and led by 25 points at half-time.

Unfortunately for the Jazz, they will still be without point guard Ricky Rubio who is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury. Undermanned and outgunned, the Jazz will have an uphill battle in this game. One area that they can focus on improving is at the free throw line where they went 13-of-22 for 59.1%. Another area they need to improve on is their 3-point defense as they allowed Houston to shoot 53.1% on 17-of-32 shots.

For the Rockets, they need to just be consistent in Game 2 and it should result in a win.  The consistency starts with James Harden, who in Game 2 of the series against the Minnesota Timberwolves only scored 12 points on 2-of-18 shooting.

Fortunately for Harden and the Rockets, James has owned Utah this year. Harden averaged 34.3 ppg against Utah during the regular season and trumped that average in Game 1 with 41 points. Utah doesn’t have anyone who can stop him, and I expect him to score at least as much as his playoff average of 31 ppg.

Rockets point guard Chris Paul nullified Utah’s point guard Donovan Mitchell in Game 1. Paul had 17 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. Mitchell, who is Utah’s top scorer, finished with 21 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 0 steals. In the series clinching win against Oklahoma City Thunder, Mitchell scored 38 points. For the playoffs, he’s averaging 27.4 ppg. If Utah is to have a chance, they need their top scorer to outduel Chris Paul. Without Rubio, I don’t see Mitchell accomplishing this.

The other big contributor to Houston’s Game 1 success was center Clint Capela. He played a solid game against one of the NBA’s top defensive big men in Utah’s Rudy Gobert. Capela finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He also only had 2 personal fouls. Gobert finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 4 personal fouls. Utah needs Gobert to produce more in the box score for Game 2. They certainly need him to outplay Capela. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening either. Gobert is going to be left in no-man’s land with the Rockets bombing away from the outside or forcing him to come out and then driving past him. Although Utah has one of the league’s best defenses, they just don’t match up well with Houston especially on the road.

Even with a poor Game 1 performance by Utah, these two teams still combined for 206 total points. In the playoffs, Houston is scoring 110.3 ppg and the Jazz are scoring 104.1 ppg. Utah is allowing 102.4 ppg and the Rockets are allowing 100.7 ppg. So, with these averages, I can see the Rockets and Jazz going over 206 total points this game.

The Over has gone 6-2 in the last 8 head-to-head meetings with an average total of 215.3 points. In the last 10 games between these 2 teams, the Over has gone 7-3. Additionally, during that span, the Jazz averaged 103.4 ppg and the Rockets averaged 109.6 ppg. The Over is 4-1 in the last 5 head-to-head games in Houston.

I do believe Utah will play better in Game 2 and maybe even keep the game within single digits, which scares me away from the spread in this game. With that said, I’m going with the Over 206 points. I believe Utah will hit their playoff average of points and I’m very confident that Houston will have another offensive onslaught.

Pick: Over 205
-115

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