What they're saying about the Jazz and Rockets on the internet:
I DON'T EXPECT this matchup to be a very close series, although a lot of people do. I think the problem is that people see this year's Rockets team as the same one that was successful the past few years. That's really not the case. The difference between the Houston teams that won an the Rockets now is that they don't play defense anymore. The Rockets have consistently given up 100 points a game, and often to bad teams as well as good ones. Right now, they are playing the best offensive team in basketball and that doesn't mix well. When you factor in that Hakeem Olajuwon is not 100 percent healthy because of a sore knee, Charles Barkley is not healthy due to a left groin strain and Clyde Drexler is going off to coach the Houston Cougars. I think this is going to be a tough series for the Rockets.
UTAH WENT 31-5 after the All-Star break, while Houston posted a 19-16 record over the same span. Digesting those numbers, there is no particular reason to think Houston could pull the upset, even with three Hall of Famers in residence. The fact remains that the best team doesn't always win a five-game series, which has to give the Rockets some hope. The Jazz have been playing the best basketball in the NBA over the past two months, and have been getting solid contributions all the way to the 10th man on the roster. Since Utah's perpetually ready to play, the real question of this series is: Do Houston's old lions, including streak scorers Willis and Johnson, have the fire in their belly for one last battle? The answer is likely to be apparent by the end of Game 1.
EVERY YEAR, the Utah Jazz seem to get a little bit closer to that all elusive title. After reaching the NBA Finals for the first time last season, Karl Malone and Co. enter the 1998 playoffs with a new advantage - home-court advantage throughout the postseason. Having won 18 of its past 20 home playoff games, Utah knows that edge could be critical. But the rival Rockets present a unique challenge to three future Hall of Famers hoping to rebound from an injury-ravaged year for one final run.
UTAH IS PLAYING their best basketball of the season. As for Houston, well . . . One thing in the Rockets favor, however, is that they have all four of their key players in the lineup, which has been a rarity this season. The only problem is the rest of the Houston lineup is pretty poor, and Utah has been a steamroller in the second half of the season. The Rockets were effective in last year's playoffs when they could make people pay for double-teaming Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem's slowing down but that will still be their preferred means of attack. Defensively, the Rockets were torched by John Stockton in last year's playoffs and need to figure out a way to stop him.
IS THE DEATH of the Houston Rockets going to be greatly exaggerated? Witnessing the way the Rockets limped, argued and under-achieved their way through this season, we can see why everybody is already writing them off. But don't forget that Houston made the conference finals last year, and if it weren't for that John Stockton trey, things might be reversed right now. When they were winning championships, Houston had that supreme mental edge. Homecourt meant nothing, scouting reports meant nothing - it was their series no matter what. More so, than their actual play, that's where their current problem lies. It says a lot when Charles Barkley choose not to participate in a playoff game . . .