Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets

Daniel Collins

Written by: Daniel Collins

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Read Time: 4 minutes

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The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz have been playing each other since the 1974 season, but there hasn’t always been a rivalry. This rivalry really took off in the 1990’s when the Rockets and Jazz were two of the best teams in the Western Conference year after year. The Rockets were led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, while Karl Malone and John Stockton were leading the Jazz team. Houston was able to beat the odds and win a pair of championships during the 1990’s, but the Jazz couldn’t figure out a way to get past Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The Rockets and Jazz have met in the NBA Playoffs a whopping eight times since 1985, and there is no love lost between the two franchises. Houston and Salt Lake City aren’t relatively close in proximity, but their love for their teams is evenly matched. Both the Rockets and Jazz look like playoff teams again in 2019, and this rivalry will continue to grow.

History of Jazz vs. Rockets Rivalry

The first meeting between the Rockets and Jazz took place on October 30, 1974. The Houston Rockets defeated the New Orleans Jazz by a score of 113-100, and the rivalry was kicked off. These two teams have played each other a total of 245 times since 1974, and the rivalry has always been very competitive. The Jazz hold a slim 127-118 lead in the all-time series standings, but the Rockets are charging hard. The two teams have played a combined 44 playoff games against each other, with each team winning 22 games. Out of the eight playoff series against each other, the Jazz have advanced five times, while the Rockets have eliminated their rival in the other three. Houston and Utah were often the preseason picks to reach the NBA Finals in the Western Conference in the 90’s, and they seemed to always run into each other in the playoffs. The Western Conference is loaded with great teams, but the Jazz and Rockets will always be in that mix.

The Jazz came into the NBA as an expansion team in 1974, and they were based out of New Orleans. “Pistol” Pete Maravich was the star of the team in the early years, but the Jazz could never truly find a stable home in New Orleans. They were eventually moved to Salt Lake City in 1979 and have been playing games at Vivint Smart Home Arena since the 1991 NBA season. The Jazz struggled to find their place in the NBA until they drafted John Stockton and Karl Malone in back-to-back seasons. Jazz fans quickly made the prediction that both players would be a bust, but they wound up being the two best players in team history. Stockton and Malone would lead the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, but they just couldn’t get past the Chicago Bulls. Utah struggled when the legends retired until selecting Deron Williams with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Williams teamed up with Carlos Boozer to lead the team to back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008, but they had short playoff experiences each season. Utah appears to be trending in the right direction again, and they are looking to be a playoff team for the second consecutive season.

The Rockets got their start in San Diego back in 1967, but they were moved to Houston in 1971. The Rockets got off to a shaky start as a franchise and didn’t finish a season with a winning record until 1976-77. One of the most famous Rockets in team history is Moses Malone, and he led his Houston team to the NBA Finals in 1981. The Houston franchise really took off when Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler teamed up in the mid 1990’s. Olajuwon and Drexler lead the Rockets to back to back championships in 1994 and 95, and they lost a few other close playoff series to the Utah Jazz. James Harden led the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals a season ago, and they were many people’s preseason prediction to make it to the NBA Finals in 2019.

Head to Head Comparison of Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets

The Rockets and Jazz aren’t two of the most storied franchises in NBA History, but they ran into a lot of tough luck along the way. Houston was able to win a pair of NBA titles in the mid 1990’s and have won four conference titles in total. The Jazz are without an NBA title, but they did win back-to-back Western Conference titles in 1997 and 1998. Utah does have the edge in division titles, winning nine of them in franchise history, while the Rockets have won the division just six times.

Quick Look at Last 20 Games Between Jazz and Rockets

While focusing on the last 20 games between the Jazz and Rockets doesn’t tell the whole story in this rivalry, it does give us a look at some recent trends. The Jazz have been the better team in this rivalry since it began, but the Rockets have been much better in the last 20 games. Houston holds a 13-7 lead over the Jazz in games dating back to January 4, 2016. The Rockets have posted a 7-4 record during games played in Houston, and have also won six of the nine games played in Salt Lake City. This rivalry might shift back in favor of Utah in the near future, but the last 20 games helps us make some predictions moving forward.

Detailed Splits for Jazz-Rockets Rivalry

The Rockets have been the winners in 13 of the last 20 games against the Jazz, but that doesn’t tell the whole story in terms of betting. Taking a closer look at the betting odds and the results in the last 20 games can help make a prediction for the next games between the two teams. The Rockets have been the betting favorites in 17 of the last 20 games against the Jazz, but they haven’t always been the correct pick. Houston has managed to go just 10-7 against the spread in these games, so the Jazz have had some success as well. The Jazz have been the favorites in just three of the last 20 games, and they managed to go 1-2 in terms of covering the point spread. Looking at over/under results in the last 20 games gives us a better idea of how these two teams score against each other. The Rockets and Jazz have combined to go “under” the point total nine times, while the “over” has been the winner 11 times. Houston has been the better team in the last 20 games, but they haven’t always been the winner in terms of betting.