Point Guard

Chris Paul vs. Ricky Rubio

Chris Paul is nicknamed “The Point God,” but he’s slipped somewhat in his 13th NBA season with the worst shooting percentage of his career. Still, he’s still making 55% of his mid-range jumpers, killer to the Jazz’s defense. Rubio, will get a chance to show what he can do against the Rockets in the playoffs, but he shot only 31% against them in the regular season. Advantage: Rockets

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul (3) gets past Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) using a second half screen form Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15). The Rockets beat the Jazz 100-87, Sunday, May 6, 2018.

Shooting Guard

James Harden vs. Donovan Mitchell

James Harden could be this year’s MVP. Even if he isn’t, he’s the NBA’s leading scorer since Michael Jordan’s prime, with an unstoppable array of weapons, including the best step-back three and foul-drawing game the NBA has ever seen. But Donovan Mitchell will be looking to show that he has improved since last year’s series, more frequently making the right decision attacking Houston’s switches. Advantage: Rockets

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) defended by Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker (17). The Utah Jazz host the Houston Rockets, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday Dec. 6, 2018.

Small Forward

Joe Ingles vs. Eric Gordon

The Rockets play small, with all of Paul, Harden, and Gordon in the starting lineup. That means Joe Ingles will have a big size advantage over whoever he guards, and he’s become an important playmaker in the Jazz’s lineup. Will he be able to take advantage of switches? Meanwhile, after an awful start to the year, Gordon found himself in the second half of the season, once again shooting over 40% from 3. Advantage: Even

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder (99) defends Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) during first half play. The Houston Rockets led the Utah Jazz 70-40 at the half of game 3, Friday, May 4, 2018.

Power Forward

P.J. Tucker vs. Jae Crowder/Derrick Favors

Jae Crowder has started in three of the Jazz’s four matchups against Houston in the regular season, as Quin Snyder looks for a perimeter option that can keep up against Houston’s space-oriented approach. Tucker’s a little bit better of a defender, but Crowder’s a bit more versatile and more willing to take shots overall. Advantage: Jazz

Houston Rockets' P.J. Tucker (17) falls as he is fouled by San Antonio Spurs' DeMar DeRozan during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)


Clint Capela vs. Rudy Gobert

It’s not that Capela beat Gobert in this matchup a year ago, but you could argue that he played the Jazz’s most impactful player to a draw. Gobert comes to this series with a more expansive game on both ends of the floor: he’s more willing to contest mid-range and perimeter shots than ever before, and he’s more comfortable taking advantage of smaller matchups. Expect Gobert to try to make a statement in this series. Advantage: Jazz

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) shoots over Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27). The Utah Jazz host the Houston Rockets, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday Dec. 6, 2018.


With Derrick Favors coming off the bench, the Jazz likely have the best non-starting player, someone who can own the glass and create baskets by slipping picks and rolling to the rim. Can Kyle Korver contribute against a switching defense? Royce O’Neale will get a ton of time guarding Harden, too. Meanwhile, the Rockets bench features an excellent shooter (Danuel House), an aggressive driver (Austin Rivers), and an experienced backup center (Nene). Advantage: Jazz

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (23) hits the net as the Utah Jazz take on the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Friday, May 4, 2018 in Salt Lake City.


Quin Snyder has been planning for this moment since the Jazz’s elimination a year ago, studying teams in the NBA and overseas on how to attack switching defenses. But Mike D’Antoni remains one of the NBA’s most progressive coaches: a decade after beginning the league’s pace era, he hasn’t been afraid to embrace Harden’s unique talents to the maximum. For the second straight year, the Rockets took more threes than twos. Advantage: Jazz

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 25, 2017, file photo, Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni yells at the officials during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, in Houston. Erik Spoelstra and D’Antoni are the co-winners of the National Basketball Coaches Association’s coach of the year award, announced Sunday, May 7, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)


It’s a nightmare matchup for the Jazz: no team relies more on screens and dribble-handoffs to create their offense, but the Rockets’ switching defense neutralizes that threat, begging Jazz ballhandlers to take advantage. Donovan Mitchell can do that, but can anyone else? We’ll see. Meanwhile, the Jazz’s defense — adept at taking away layups and 3-point shots from their opponent — figures to bother the Rockets’ analytics-era outside-in attack. Rudy Gobert is more capable than ever from all over the floor. But in the end, James Harden is nearly impossible to stop, and even if they do, Houston’s Chris Paul could easily repeat last year’s performance to find the middle of the Jazz’s defensive attack. Various personnel changes from last season’s series change the calculus somewhat, but not enough to prevent the same result. Prediction: Rockets in six