An early look at the Rockets vs. Jazz NBA playoff series

James Harden and the Rockets will get Utah in Round 2. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Rockets know their next opponent in the 2018 playoffs. 

The Utah Jazz beat Oklahoma City 96-91 to wrap up their series Friday night. Utah, the five seed, finished 48-34, but were one of the hottest teams in basketball down the stretch. The strength for Utah is defense, as the Jazz ranked second in the NBA.

The Rockets swept the season series between the teams, but most of the games were early on. The Jazz will be facing a quick turnaround, as Game 1 is Sunday afternoon at Toyota Center. They also might be without point guard Ricky Rubio, who left Friday night's game with a hamstring injury.

The complete series schedule will not be determined until the Boston-Milwaukee series is settled, but Game 2 will be Wednesday at Toyota Center.

What to watch for the Jazz: Center Rudy Gobert will represent a serious matchup problem for the Rockets, but then so did Karl-Anthony Towns and we saw haw that worked out. Rubio played at a high level throughout the Thunder series, and his availability will be key. Rookie star Donovan Mitchell had 38 points in the win over the Thunder Friday night and averaged 20.5 points per game in the regular season and upped that to 28.5 in the opening playoff series. The two teams have a long playoff history, but that was a long time ago and does not include any current players. The Jazz will offer a nice test, and their defense might win them a game or two, but the Rockets have too much firepower and should advance.

Game 1 details

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Site: Toyota Center.



Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome