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Rockets Now Heavy -500 Favorite to Advance in First-Round After Demolishing Jazz in Game 1

James Harden shooting basketball
BetOnline has set James Harden's points per game total at 30.5 as he faces the rugged Utah Jazz defense in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License].
  • James Harden and the Rockets looked dominant in their Game 1 victory over the Jazz
  • The series winner advances to play the winner of  the Clippers/Warriors series
  • Is there any value in wagering on Utah?

I don’t blame you if you aren’t yet ready to count on the Houston Rockets in the playoffs. But the very early returns are encouraging.

The Rockets shredded the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their best-of-seven opening round series, which shortened their odds quickly.

Is it already time to disregard a 50-win Jazz team that could have just had an off night?

Jazz vs Rockets Playoff Series Odds

Team Odds to Win Series at Bovada
Utah Jazz +350
Houston Rockets -500

* Odds taken 04/15/19

Rockets Playing at NBA-Best Level

This is not the Houston team that staggered out of the gate, or even the James Harden vs the world team that battled injuries and fielded G-League-level rosters. However, it appears to be some combination of those teams oddsmakers were using when calculating their opening NBA first-round series prices.

After starting as -325 favorites against the Jazz, Houston’s now sitting at -500, and suddenly, a series that looked like it would be one of the best of the first round could be a primer for the Rockets, as Golden State likely lurks in Round 2.

After starting as -325 favorites against the Jazz, Houston’s now sitting at -500.

While the offensive numbers look good – 122 points on 50.5% shooting from the field and 36.6% from three – perhaps the Rockets’ defense is the reason the Warriors aren’t going to easily slice through the West like a Hattori Hanzo blade.

Houston limited Utah to just 90 points and kept them at 39% shooting for the game, including a woeful 7-for-27 from beyond they arc. Those are the numbers we may have been used to hearing about from Utah’s defense, but Houston is at a new level defensively. Since the All-Star break, only the Jazz have a better defensive rating than the Rockets’ 105.3, a big reason they ended the year on a league-best 20-5 run.

Jazz Still Very Much in Series

For all the Rockets’ bluster, Utah is still one win away from bringing it back home tied 1-1. And we’re just a Chris Paul injury away from this getting interesting.

Obviously, their defense has to be better, and shutting down even a few options is a good start. Houston’s starters all finished in double-digits in scoring, and all shot better than 50% from the field – except for Harden. 

Utah was also the fourth-worst team in the NBA in turnovers at 15.1 a contest, and they outdid themselves by turning it over 18 times. But in any series that involves the Rockets, you’re going to have to be able to put up points – which was going to be a challenge for the Jazz, who ranked 17th overall in scoring in the regular season. It looked it on Sunday night.

While Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert combined to score 41, few others were contributors to the cause. The trio of Joe Ingles, Kyle Korver, and Jae Crowder combined for just 14 points. They’ll need to punch up a level in Game 2 to even things up.

Should You Wager on the Jazz?

This would be the time to do it, as another Jazz loss and this series is likely over. But even if this series were tied going back to Utah, Harden is too much of a wrecking ball right now to succumb to anyone in the first round. For now, that’s one thing you can count on.

Pick: Rockets (-500)

NBA Playoff Bracket

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