Sunday, May 6, 2007

Series Wrap-Up: Rockets-Jazz

Jazz win series 4-3. Utah won the only first round series to go seven games thanks to strong play in the paint an outstanding point guard play. The Jazz were led by Carlos Boozer, who averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds. While Andrei Kirilenko was having a very tough series, Boozer was supported in the frontcourt by Mehmet Okur (11 ppg, 8 rpg) and Matt Harpring (11 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
In the backcourt, playoff first-timer Deron Williams played with poise and confidence, averaging 16 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in the series (19 points, 9.3 assists in Utah's 4 victories) and avoided the mistakes that normally come with inexperience. With the depth and talent they exhibited in this series, the Jazz showed that they are capable of playing with any team in the Western Conference.

The Rockets, on the other hand, were exposed as little more than a two-man team. Not one member of their supporting cast consistently contributed on the offensive end. Not only did they not raise their games for the playoffs, they saw a dramatic drop-off in their performance. The supporting cast of Shane Battier, Juwon Howard, Luther Head and Rafer Alston combined to average a less-than-stellar 30 points per game against the Jazz, on just 37% from the floor, 14 points below their combined regular season average. To compound matters, Yao Ming, also saw a dramatic drop-off in his performance. On the surface, his averages of 25 points and 10.3 rebounds appear very solid, but in this series his field goal percentage fell to 44% (from 51.6% in the regular season), he averaged less than one block per game (down from 1.96) and he averaged an unacceptable 4.74 turnovers a game (up from 3.48 on the season). Tracy McGrady, the Rocket who will receive the most blame for this loss, was the lone member of the team that truly showed up and fought against Utah, averaging 25.3 point (on just 39% shooting, however), 5.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and just 3 turnovers per game. In the coming off-season the Rockets will must look to add a third scorer to ease the pressure on T-Mac and Yao. It is absolutely necessary if they are going to take the next step and become championship contenders.

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