The two-time All-Star Game selection is the only NBA player to average 10-plus rebounds and 20-plus points each of the past two seasons. Fifty-one double-doubles this season. The Duke product averaged 23.5 points and 12.2 boards in last year's playoffs. He was Utah's high-scorer in five 2007 postseason games vs. Houston, including one with 41 and one with 35.
Scola may be a rookie he was one of the league's best this season but the 28-year-old Argentine is quite experienced internationally. He will probably end up guarding Mehmet Okur, and this is his first taste of the NBA playoffs. He's a low double-digit scorer, but averages only 6.4 rebounds per game.
Kirilenko melted down in Houston last postseason, reduced to tears by a limited offensive role and frustration playing for coach Jerry Sloan. He wanted an offseason trade. But the lanky Russian has satisfied Sloan this season, and his defense is needed against Houston's Tracy McGrady. He's not the superstar he is internationally, but the 2004 NBA All-Star is integral to Utah's postseason hopes.
9.3 ppg5.1 rpg
Battier is a small forward on offense, but the Duke product one of the league's top defenders on the wing frequently guards other teams' shooting guards. He plays with Matt Harpring-like grit, and gives pretty much anyone he's up against fits. To put his play in perspective, Battier has long been a Jerry Sloan favorite. True class off the court, too.
Okur commendably guarded Chinese giant Yao Ming in last year's series vs. Houston, but his offensive output (average: 11.0 points) suffered accordingly. This year injured Yao is out, so the big Turk has no reason for not producing on both ends. Okur's healthy, spurring double-digit scoring in 23-of-24 end-of-the-season games.He's added a new dimension, too, driving with previously absent confidence.
The 7-foot-2 Mutombo didn't play (coach's decision) most of the first half of the season. Then out-for-the-playoffs All-Star Yao Ming went down with a stress-fractured bone in his left foot, and now Mutombo is starting and averaging 16 minutes per game. The affable, finger-wagging Congo native will block some shots, but the 16-year vet is a matchup waiting to be exploited by Carlos Boozer.
Brewer represents the Jazz's major change from last postseason, replacing former starting shooting guard and current Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher in the starting lineup. The athletic University of Arkansas product doesn't have Fisher's experience, but he has quickness and a knack for steals (his steals-to-turnovers ratio of 1.85 led the NBA). That should come in handy against McGrady.
21.6 ppg5.1 rpg
His scoring average: down 3.0 points from last season. The Rockets run a more team-oriented offense this season, so the onus isn't all on McGrady. But don't misunderstand: Houston's offense starts and ends with their seven-time All-Star, especially without Yao; Jazz defenders will have their hands full. Perhaps the bigger burden, though, is on McGrady who in six tries has never won a first-round series.
Ex-Illinois star Williams made a late-season push to pass Boozer for the team lead in double-doubles with 52, and finished fifth among league leaders behind only Orlando's Dwight Howard (69), Chris Paul of New Orleans (56), Minnesota's Al Jefferson (55) and San Antonio's Tim Duncan (53). He's still sore from a late-season butt bruise, but should dominate point play in the series.
Alston will miss Game 1 and perhaps Game 2 with a hamstring strain, but the Jazz are likely to see him before the series concludes. Skip To My Lou is a streetball legend, and he has a propensity for getting under the skin of opponents, but most would agree he's out of his league when matched against a healthy Deron Williams.
JAZZ: Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap, Ronnie Price, etc.
ROCKETS: Bobby Jackson, Carl Landry, Luther Head, Chuck Hayes, etc.