What is the more intriguing series for the Western Conference semi-finals, Utah vs. Houston or Oklahoma City vs. Houston? Do you want to see a matchup full of absolute star power, or do you want to see a matchup with team systems and coach of the year candidates battling it out to see which of their systems prevail? The Rockets hold home court advantage over both teams but either matchup will set up for an enticing series.
I believe you can’t really compare regular season match-ups between two teams and say this is definitely how the series will go in the playoffs based on those performances, but you can find information that helps you build a case on what the outcome may be.
Rockets and Thunder regular season
The regular season was 2-1 in favor of the Thunder, and looking back the final scores were close games, though you can also say the Thunder’s win on April 7th doesn’t really have much relevancy as Houston sat with the NBA’s best record. The Thunder were fighting for their lives trying to get in to the playoffs. Their second matchup of the season on March 6th was probably the most telling to what this series could look like as the Rockets went into Oklahoma city on a 15 game win streak and made it 16 in a row with a 10 point win. The first matchup of the season was a Christmas day matchup where everyone was watching. Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony combined for 75 points that night and they will all have to have similar performances over the course of the potential series to keep up with Mike D’Antoni’s Juggernaut of an offense.
My Prediction IF this is the WCSF matchup: I didn’t really want to bring up last year’s playoff matchup between these two because it was a lone Westbrook vs a good Houston team but I think the outcome is somewhat similar. Houston wins in 6 on the road.
Rockets and Jazz regular season
Looking at the regular season series you’d think that a playoff matchup between the two would be a breeze for the Rockets. They swept the season series 4-0. The first game was one of the first games of the season and the Jazz were just beginning to figure out how to recover from the Gordon Hayward departure. Harden went and took advantage of that and scored an astounding 56 points to go along with 13 assists. The second matchup was a lot more competitive with Mitchell starting to come into his own but the Rockets still handled this one winning their 8th straight at the time. They played about a week and a half later, this time without Rudy Gobert (knee injury) and blew the Jazz out, continuing their winning streak to 14. The final and fourth matchup of the season was in February. The Jazz were at full strength but they still hadn’t started clicking yet and were only one game above .500. The Rockets again were on another impressive winning streak following this one extending it to 13 straight wins.
My prediction IF this is the WCSF matchup: What I mentioned at the beginning of this article about the season series not necessarily correlating to the outcome of a potential playoff series couldn’t be more true in this case. When the Rockets and Jazz last met the Jazz were only 31-30. The Jazz would go on to finish the season playing their best basketball and lose only 4 games since that last Houston loss. The Jazz would go 17-4 after losing to Houston late February. With that being said I still think Houston would win this series in about the same fashion as a series with OKC, but I think the Jazz put up a lot better of a fight than they did during the regular season. Houston wins in 6 on the road.
Featured image credit: nowplayingutah.com
Photo credit: foxsports.com Youtube.com