Houston Rockets

Five stats you need to know about Rockets' series win over Jazz — Presented by Samsung

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Chris Paul (Getty Images)

The Rockets are going to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in four seasons. They received a scare in Game 2 of the second round when the Jazz beat them by eight points at the Toyota Center, but the Rockets looked more like the team that finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA in Games 3-5. Chris Paul in particular was tremendous down the stretch, and he's now going to the third round for the first time in his career.

Before the Rockets take on the Warriors in Game 1 on Monday, here are five stats you need to know from their series against the Jazz.

7.2: How many shots the Rockets blocked per game

After outplaying Karl-Anthony Towns in the first round, Clint Capela got the better of another elite center in Rudy Gobert.

As important as Capela's offense is to the Rockets, it was his defense that stood out against the Jazz. He blocked a total of 18 shots in five games, almost a third of which came within a three minute period in the fourth quarter of Game 4. His presence around the rim limited the Jazz to 49.2 percent shooting within 6-feet of the basket as well, a rate that was over 11 percentage points worse than what they usually shoot in those situations.

While Gobert could very well win Defensive Player of the Year this season, Capela contested almost two more shots per game at the rim than him in the series.

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The combination helped the Rockets keep the Jazz to 95.1 points per 100 possessions when Capela was on the court compared to 107.5 when he was on bench. The former gave Capela one of the highest defensive ratings among players in the semifinals.

21.4: James Harden's shooting percentage against Dante Exum in Games 2-4

It's unfortunate that Dante Exum left Game 4 with an injury, because he quickly proved to be the Jazz's only hope of slowing down James Harden. His breakout performance came in Game 2, when he limited Harden to two points on 0-for-7 shooting in the 22 possessions they were matched up together. Harden was more successful against him in Games 3 and 4 - the six-time All-Star scored 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting in the 27 possessions Exum defended him in those games - but he finished the series shooting 21.4 percent against the Australian.

Even though Exum wouldn't have been the difference between the Jazz winning and losing the series, his versatility on defense might have helped the Jazz make Games 4 and 5 more competitive.

9.8: How many shots the Rockets attempted from midrange per game

The Rockets pushed Moreyball to the limits during the regular season by attempting a league-low 7.0 shots per game from midrange. They took even less (5.8) in their first round matchup with the Timberwolves, only to then see their attempts from midrange skyrocket to 9.8 per game against the Jazz in the second round.

The Jazz's defense is built around keeping teams off the 3-point line and forcing them to settle for inefficient shots from midrange or heavily contested shots around the basket against Rudy Gobert. The Spurs used the same blueprint to slow James Harden and the Rockets down in the playoffs last season, but that team didn't have Chris Paul on its roster. Whereas that strategy has proven to be effective against Harden in the past, Paul gives Houston an answer to defenses that believe the key to slowing the Rockets down is by encouraging them to shoot from midrange.

Paul didn't generate much of his offense from midrange during the regular season, but 2-point pull-ups represented nearly half of his shot attempts against the Jazz. And he delivered, by connecting on 46.7 percent of those opportunities. It was a big reason why he was able to get going in the final two games of the series.

22.2: Donovan Mitchell's shooting percentage on pull-up 3-pointers

If there's one weakness in Donovan Mitchell's game, it's his pull-up jump shot.

While he made a decent amount of his 2-point pull-ups during the regular season, Mitchell converted less than 30.0 percent of his 3-point pull-ups as a rookie. It's a shot he had success with against the Thunder in the opening round, but he came back down to earth in the semis by missing 21 of his 27 pull-up attempts from the perimeter. Considering those looks made up nearly a third of his total shot attempts in the series, it's no wonder why Mitchell struggled with efficiency against the Rockets.

It didn't prevent him from having a magical run in these playoffs, but becoming a reliable threat off-the-dribble from 3-point range would make Mitchell almost impossible to guard.

17.2: P.J. Tucker's net rating

P.J. Tucker plays an important role on the Rockets. He's the fifth starter alongside Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela, and he's tasked with doing the dirty work that gives them the edge they need on both ends of the court. It starts with Tucker making open 3-pointers when teams help off of him to double team Paul and Harden, and extends to him guarding all five positions on the court when the Rockets switch on defense.

When he's doing both at a high rate, it makes the Rockets a force to be reckoned with. It shows in how successful their starting lineup was against the Jazz, as they scored at a rate of 111.8 points per 100 possessions and gave up only 84.4 on the other end of the court, making them one of the more dominant 5-man lineups of the second round.

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