Jazz news: Rudy Gobert reacts to Utah facing Rockets in first round of playoffs
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Rudy Gobert reacts to Utah facing Rockets in first round of playoffs

Rudy Gobert

The Utah Jazz got the short end of the stick on Wednesday night.

Despite the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers each facing double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter of their regular-season finales, both teams were able to pull out comeback victories, inching ahead of the Houston Rockets in the standings to earn the second and third seeds, respectively, in the Western Conference playoffs. Where did that unlikely turn of events leave Houston? In fourth, set up for a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals with Utah in the first round of the playoffs.

Needless to say, the Jazz would have been better off facing either Denver or Portland in the first round than the team that’s been basketball’s best over the second half of the season. As Rudy Gobert sees it, though, the mystical powers that be had other plans for his squad.

“It’s almost like the basketball gods wanted us to play Houston,” he told Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News.

Utah, it bears mentioning, was also among the NBA’s elite down the stretch of the regular season. The Jazz went 19-8 after the trade deadline, tied for the league’s third-best record, and posted a second-ranked +9.3 net rating on the strength of top-three marks on both offense and defense, per NBA.com/stats.

Unfortunately for Quin Snyder’s team, though, the two-way style that propelled it to so much recent success almost surely won’t work against the Rockets. The singular presence of James Harden and Houston’s switch-heavy defensive scheme means Utah will have to make major schematic adjustments in hopes pulling off a first-round upset.

On Sunday night, we’ll get the first chance to see if Gobert and company are up to the task.