Having conquered the Thunder in six games to reach the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year, the Utah Jazz now face an impossible task: beat the top-seeded Houston Rockets in a seven-game series.
Given how dominant the Rockets have been all season, the Jazz probably need just about everything to go right for them to have any shot at pulling off an upset. It’s unfortunate, therefore, that before the series has even started, they have already had something go very wrong.
On Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio will miss 10 days with a hamstring injury he suffered Friday in Utah’s series-clinching Game 6 victory over Oklahoma City. Per Woj, the Jazz hope Rubio can return sooner than that if he responds well to rehab, but it sounds as if they won’t know for at least a few days.
Rubio, of course, is not any sort of superstar. But he starts at point guard, plays 30 minutes a night and is averaging 14 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7 assists during the postseason, after putting up 13.1, 4.6 and 5.3 during the regular season. That’s not exactly easy to replace.
After Rubio went down in Game 6 on Friday, the Jazz leaned heavily on rookie Donovan Mitchell at the point, and Mitchell responded with an impressive 38-point performance. Joe Ingles and Alec Burks also saw more minutes than usual, while Dante Exum appeared briefly as well. All those players will likely be called upon at some point or other during Utah’s upcoming series against the Rockets to fill the void left by Rubio’s injury.
We’ll discover more about how Jazz coach Quin Snyder plans to replace Rubio, and how much the point guard’s absence hurts his team, during Jazz-Rockets Game 1 on Sunday.
If the reported timetable is roughly accurate and Rubio’s rehab progresses as planned, he would return in time for Game 4 or Game 5 against Houston. By that point, however, the series could be mostly over.