Jazz know they’re not favored in series against Rockets, but they relish being the underdogs

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul (3) and Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15). The Utah Jazz host the Houston Rockets, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday Dec. 6, 2018.

Houston • Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has done the research.

“When you analyze, of the 42 people that I’ve been able to find that have picked someone in this series, that there’s one that’s picked us, that tells you you’ve got to do a lot of analysis. Or you’ve got to ignore the analysis,” Snyder said after the Jazz held shootaround in preparation for Sunday night’s Game 1 against the Houston Rockets.

Snyder’s right: the Jazz are heavy underdogs. Of ESPN’s group of 20 analysts, only one picked the Jazz. The Tribune picked the Rockets in six games. Betting $100 on a Jazz series win will earn you $270 at some sportsbooks, according to BetOnline.

“We love it. We don’t really care what anyone thinks, to be honest. We know we’re a good team, we’ve played our way obviously to the 5 seed again, but yeah, it is what it is," Joe Ingles said. “We take the seeding [and what] comes with it, obviously, we start on the road, and our goal is to win a game or two.”

Road upsets have not proven uncommon in the NBA playoffs’ first weekend. Three of the four series played on Saturday night included surprising defeats for the home teams, including the Spurs beating the Nuggets, Magic defeating the Raptors, and Nets getting Game 1 over the Sixers.

“We’ll see what happens,” Ingles said. "We’ll be ready to compete, we’ll be ready to play, and we don’t really care what little stories you guys write.”

Can Jazz get rebounding edge?

Looking at the statistical tale of the tape between these two teams, perhaps the Jazz’s most notable advantage comes at the glass. Perhaps thanks to their switching defense, the Rockets are only the 28th ranked team in the NBA at getting defensive rebounds.

And whether or not the Rockets get the rebound turns out to be a huge indicator of whether or not they’ll win the game. According to CleaningTheGlass, the Rockets were 26-3 when opponents had an offensive rebound rate below 25%, but just 20-21 when opponents grabbed over 30% of their misses.

That’s an opportunity for the Jazz, who were the 13th ranked offensive rebounding team. That’s nearly entirely due to the efforts of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors when he plays the center position, as typically, the Jazz commit everyone else to transition defense just as soon as they put up a shot.

“The challenge is if you over commit to the offensive glass, they’re getting out in transition, they’re getting those threes and Capela’s getting rim runs," Snyder said. “We’ve got to go, we’ve got to go hard, and we also have to be really urgent getting back so it doesn’t hurt us going the other way.”

But after Houston switches, they’ll likely have a smaller player guarding the Jazz’s centers. That’s when the Jazz can take advantage.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about, that’s part of the game plan. Obviously, these guys switch one through five, and they may have Chris Paul or Austin Rivers on our five man at times,” Jae Crowder said. “We just want to take full advantage of that situation, and make sure our fives go every time to crash and try to get second chance points.”

The rebounding situation isn’t a huge weakness for the Rockets: as Snyder points out, the were a top-five defense since the All-Star break either way. But it does represent a way that the Jazz can get an advantage over Houston: “Obviously, any time you can get extra possessions, it’s something you want to try to do,” Snyder said.