Key stats: Houston outscored Utah by an average of 17.5 points in four regular-season victories. The Rockets have won 23 of their last 24 home games … Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is the only rookie besides Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to score at least 20 points in his first six playoff games. Mitchell’s 38-point close-out game against Oklahoma City was the fourth-highest rookie scoring total in a playoff series-clinching win.
Outlook: Since Rudy Gobert returned for Utah in mid-January, the Jazz and Rockets were the West’s top teams. This series pits defense against offense. Utah allowed 99.8 points a game this season, tied for the fewest in the NBA, while Houston averaged 112.4, second only to Golden State, and jacked that up to 116.3 in four games against Utah, which missed Gobert for only one of them. Gobert transforms Utah. The Jazz limited opponents to 7.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. Houston will try to draw him from rim protection by running pick-and-rolls about one-fourth of the time. Utah guards need to contain on the perimeter, but Ricky Rubio is coming off a hamstring injury and is out for Game 1. Houston made only 31.5% of its three-pointers in the first three games against a weaker Minnesota defense, but the Rockets’ arsenal found the range in the final two games. Likely MVP James Harden averaged 34.3 points against Utah, including a 56-point game when Chris Paul was out. Houston could get forward Luc Mbah a Moute (dislocated shoulder) back this series for a defensive boost against Utah’s slow-paced offense.