Numbers preview: Houston Rockets (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

NBA.com Global on Apr 14, 2019 07:19 PM
Numbers preview: Rockets (4) vs. Jazz (5)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 8: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets go after the loose ball during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

After a wild sequence of events over the last few days of the regular season, two of the five best teams in the league, statistically, will face each other in the first round of the playoffs.

The Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in point differential per 100 possessions. They were the league's two best teams in that regard after the All-Star break.

But here they are, facing off in the 4-5 series in the Western Conference, and one of them won't be making it out of the first round. It's the league's No. 2 offense vs. its No. 2 defense. It's also the only first-round series that's a rematch of a playoff series from last season. The Rockets would like another rematch with the defending champs, but there's no looking past this particular opponent.

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Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 4-5 series in the West.

Houston Rockets (53-29)

Pace: 98.4 (27)
OffRtg: 114.8 (2)
DefRtg: 110.1 (18)
NetRtg: +4.8 (5)

Rockets notes - General:

1. Had the league's best record (20-5) and its best point differential per 100 possessions (plus-10.7) after the All-Star break.

2. Were 7.2 points per 100 possessions better in the first halves of games (plus-8.4) than they were in second halves (plus-1.2). Only Memphis saw a bigger half-to-half drop-off. The Rockets were the league's best first quarter team, outscoring their opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions in the first period. That was the best mark for any team in any quarter this season.

3. Had the league's biggest points-in-the-paint discrepancy by a wide margin, getting outscored by 9.7 points in the paint per game.

4. Worst rebounding team (both in regard to defensive rebounding percentage and total rebounding percentage) among those that made the playoffs.

Rockets notes - Offense:

1. Took a league-high 51.8 percent of their shots from 3-point range. This was the third straight season in which they set new records for both 3-point makes and attempts. They had the four highest 3-point totals in games this season. They broke the all-time record with 26 on Dec. 19 (Dec. 20, PHL time), tied it with another 26 on Apr. 2 (Apr. 3, PHL time), and then broke it again with 27 on Apr. 7 (Apr. 8, PHL time).

2. Ranked last in both ball movement (277 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and player movement (10.2 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking. 20.4 percent of their possessions were isolations, according to Synergy play-type tracking. That was more than double the rate of any other team.

3. Only 24 percent of their points, the league's lowest rate, came from reserves.

Rockets notes - Defense:

1. Allowed 6.9 fewer points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break (105.3, second in the league) than they did before the break (112.2, 25th). That was the league's biggest post-break, DefRtg improvement by a wide margin.

2. Ranked second in opponent 3-point percentage (34.0 percent).

3. 10.8 percent of opponent possessions, the league's highest opponent rate, were isolations. Allowed 0.86 points per possession on isolations, a rate which ranked 10th.

4. Only 12.3 percent of opponent possessions, the league's lowest opponent rate, were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions, according to Synergy play-type tracking.

Rockets notes - Lineups:

1. James Harden and P.J. Tucker played 2,404 minutes together, most among any pair of teammates.

2. The Rockets allowed 8.0 fewer points per 100 possessions with Chris Paul on the floor (103.2) than they did with Paul off the floor (111.2). That was the third biggest on-off DefRtg differential among players that played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.

3. Outscored their opponents by 7.6 points per 100 possessions in 1,130 total minutes with Paul and Harden on the floor, and by 9.7 points per 100 possessions in 727 minutes with Paul on the floor without Harden.

4. Best on-court NetRtg among two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Capela and House. The Rockets have outscored their opponents by 13.9 points per 100 possessions in 552 minutes with the pair on the floor together.

5. Only five percent of their minutes came from rookies (910 minutes) or second-year players (38 minutes). That was the league's lowest rate.

Rockets notes - Individuals:

1. Clint Capela ranked second in the league with 13.0 points per game scored in the restricted area. He took 99.2 percent of his shots from the paint. That was the highest rate among 274 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts.

2. Capela defended 228 total isolations, most in the league by a wide margin.

3. Eric Gordon had an effective field goal percentage of 61.2 percent after the All-Star break, up from 48.6 percent before the break. That was the second biggest jump among 202 players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and at least 100 after it.

4. Gerald Green ranked second in the league with 156 3-pointers off the bench. He took 76.3 percent of his shots from 3-point range, the highest rate among 178 players with at least 500 field goal attempts. P.J. Tucker (74.0 percent) and Gordon (64.0 percent) had the second and ninth highest rates, respectively.

5. James Harden led the league in scoring (36.1 points per game, most in the last 32 years), usage rate (39.3 percent, the second highest rate in the 23 seasons for which we have play-by-play data), 3-pointers (378, second most in NBA history) and free throws (754, seventh most in NBA history). He was the league's leading scorer in the first, second, third and fourth quarters.

6. Harden had 1,280 isolation possessions, 927 more than any other player, according to Synergy play-type tracking. He scored 1.11 points per possession on isolations, the highest rate among 51 players with at least 100 total isolation possessions. He led the league with 342 pull-up 3 pointers, almost twice as many as any other player. He was assisted on just 13.0 percent of his baskets, the lowest rate among 207 players with at least 200 made field goals. Chris Paul (13.9 percent) had the second lowest rate.

7. Harden ranked second in both steals (2.0) and deflections (3.5) per game. Paul (2.0 and 3.3) ranked third in both.

8. Harden had 220 assists to Capela. That was the most from one player to a single teammate this season.

9. Danuel House shot 42.4 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the best mark among the seven Rockets who attempted at least 100.

10. Paul drew a foul on just one percent of his drives, the lowest rate among players who averaged at least 10 drives per game.

11. Tucker led the league with 109 corner 3-pointers, the most in the 23 years for which we have shot location data (and probably the most in NBA history). He shot much better from the right corner (70-for-162, 43.2 percent) than from the left corner (39-for-115, 33.9 percent).

12. Tucker attempted 43 times as many 3-pointers (387) as mid-range shots (9). That was the highest rate among 218 players with at least 200 total field goal attempts from outside the paint. Gordon (30 times as many) and Austin Rivers (30 times as many) had the second and third highest rates, respectively.

13. Tucker was the only qualified player with more than twice as many steals (132) as turnovers (63).

Utah Jazz (50-32)

Pace: 100.9 (14)
OffRtg: 110.2 (14)
DefRtg: 105.2 (2)
NetRtg: +5.0 (4)

Jazz notes - General:

1. Were 50-32, with the point differential of a team that was 56-26. That was the biggest difference between a team's "expected wins" and its actual wins.

2. Tied for the fewest games (33) that were within five points in the last five minutes. Their record in those games (15-18) was the worst among playoff teams.

Jazz notes - Offense:

1. Scored 6.0 more points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break (114.4, fourth in the league) than they did before the break (108.4, 19th). That was the league's biggest post-break, OffRtg improvement.

2. Led the league with 55.1 drives per game. Recorded assists on 11.4 percent of their drives, the league's highest rate.

3. One of four teams that ranked in the top 10 in both player movement (11.7 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession, seventh) and ball movement (357 passes per 24 minutes of possession, fifth), according to Second Spectrum tracking. They saw the league's second biggest increase in the percentage of their field goals that were assisted, from 58.6 percent (14th) last season to 64.4 percent (fourth) this season.

4. Only 3.2 percent of their possessions, the league's lowest rate, were isolations, according to Synergy play-type tracking.

5. Scored 1.22 points per possession on pick-and-roll roll man possessions, the league's best mark.

Jazz notes - Defense:

1. Have ranked in the top three in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons.

2. One of two teams that allowed fewer than 10 3-pointers per game.

3. Only 13.4 percent of opponent possessions, the league's lowest opponent rate, were in transition, according to Synergy play-type tracking.

4. 21.7 percent of opponent possessions, the league's highest opponent rate, were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions.

5. Allowed 100.5 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter, the fewest any team allowed in any period this season. Saw the biggest increase in points allowed per 100 possessions from the first half of games (101.6 - 1st) to the second half (108.7 - 13th).

Jazz notes - Lineups:

1. One of two teams (Oklahoma City was the other) with two lineups that played at least 400 minutes together.

2. Starting lineup - Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles, Favors and Gobert - was the best defensive rebounding lineup (grabbing 80.9 percent of available defensive boards) among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.

3. Allowed just 100.1 points per 100 possessions with Favors on the floor. That was the lowest on-court DefRtg mark among 230 players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 games or more. Ingles (100.5) and Royce O'Neal (101.1) had the second and fourth lowest marks, respectively.

Jazz notes - Individuals:

1. Jae Crowder ranked fourth in the league with 150 3-pointers off the bench. He took 65.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range, the sixth highest rate among 178 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.

2. Opponents shot just 50.1 percent at the rim when Derrick Favors was there to protect it. That was the best rim protection mark among 47 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game in 40 or more games.

3.Favors shot 13-for-64 (20 percent) on corner 3-pointers, the worst mark among 148 players who attempted at least 50.

4. Rudy Gobert led the league (minimum 500 field goal attempts) in both effective field goal percentage (66.9 percent) and true shooting percentage (68.2 percent).

5. Gobert led the league with 5.9 screen assists per game. He also scored 1.35 points per possession as a roll man, the best mark among players with at least 200 roll-man possessions. He took 88 percent of his shots in the restricted area. That was the highest rate among 274 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts.

6. Gobert allowed just 0.65 points per possession when defending isolations, the best mark among 52 players who defended at least 75.

7. Joe Ingles averaged 7.5 assists per game after the All-Star break, 10th in the league and up from 4.9 before the break.

8. Kyle Korver took only seven percent of his shots in the paint. That was the lowest rate among 274 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts.

9. Donovan Mitchell ranked fourth with 11.1 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.95 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 17th best mark among 43 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions.

10. Royce O'Neale was assisted on 84.7 percent of his field goals, up from 62.5 percent last season. That was the second biggest increase among 236 players with at least 100 field goals both seasons.

11. In his two seasons with Utah, Ricky Rubio has recorded assists on less than 30 percent of his possessions, down from more than 40 percent in his last two seasons with Minnesota.

Regular season matchup

Season series: Series tied, 2-2 (1-1 in both locations)
Oct. 24 (Oct. 25, PHL time) @ Houston - Jazz 100, Rockets 89
Dec. 6  (Dec. 7, PHL time) @ Utah - Jazz 118, Rockets 91
Dec. 17 (Dec. 18, PHL time) @ Houston - Rockets 102, Jazz 97
Feb. 2  (Feb. 3, PHL time) @ Utah - Rockets 125, Jazz 98

Pace: 103.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Houston OffRtg: 99.0 (21st vs. Utah)
Utah OffRtg: 100.0 (28th vs. Houston)

Matchup notes:

1. All four games took place before the All-Star break. The first meeting was one of the 10 games that Carmelo Anthony played this season. Chris Paul missed the first meeting and the fourth meeting. Clint Capela missed the fourth meeting. Only three Houston lineups played together in more than one game vs. Utah.

2. The Jazz are the only Western Conference team that held the Rockets under a point per possession this season. The Rockets, in turn, held the Jazz to exactly a point per possession, Utah's lowest mark against any Western Conference opponent.

3. Both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert played in all four games, but they only played together in two of the four (and for just 12 total minutes against Houston). Jae Crowder started 11 games this season and three of those 11 starts came against Houston (all except the first meeting). His plus-22 over the four games was the best mark on the Jazz.

4. Utah's Crowder-instead-of-Favors lineup was a plus-4 in its 44 minutes against the Rockets, holding the Rockets to 98 points on 99 possessions.

5. James Harden and Gerald Green combined to shoot 23-for-63 (37 percent) from 3-point range. All other Rockets shot 23-for-89 (26 percent).

6. Harden totaled 12 free throw attempts in Utah's two wins and 31 free throw attempts in Houston's two wins. He took 33 percent of his shots in the restricted area, a higher rate than he averaged over the full season (27 percent). He also shot better in the restricted area (19-for-29, 66 percent) than his season-long mark (59 percent).

7. Ricky Rubio was the primary defender on Harden and the Jazz held the Rockets to just 113 points on those 123 possessions (91.8 per 100). With Rubio out, Royce O'Neale was the primary defender on Harden in last year's conference semifinals, and the Jazz weren't as successful.

8. Eric Gordon was the primary defender on Mitchell, who shot 14-for-25 (56 percent) in the first meeting and 18-for-55 (33 percent) over the last three.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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