Ricky Rubio, who looks like the very happiest bearded child in that damn photo up there, will reportedly not be available for Game 1 of Jazz-Rockets, to be played Sunday afternoon in Houston. The hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the final game of Utah’s series-clinching win over OKC will apparently need some time to heal:
Hamstring injuries are a real bastard. And Rubio was on an excellent run, averaging 18 points and eight assists in 35 minutes per game in his first ever trip to the playoffs. A series against the Houston Rockets is not a very good time to be without your starting point guard, let alone one as adept at guarding around the perimeter as Rubio. On the other hand, Rubio finished a disgusting minus-65 in 117 minutes across Utah’s four losses to the Rockets in the regular season, in games the Jazz lost by a combined 70 points. Woof.
So maybe the Jazz won’t mind trying out Alec Burks and Dante Exum, the two reserves who divided up Rubio’s minutes Friday night? Burks, who’d played fewer than two minutes a game across three playoff games before Game 6, stepped up and scored 11 points on eight shots in 17 minutes Friday night; Exum, who played in all six games against the Thunder, was pulling about 13 minutes per game in the series before getting just five minutes across the final two games of the series.
If Jazz coach Quin Snyder goes with the hot hand, Burks would get the lion’s share of Rubio’s minutes, at least initially. One way or another, man, it is going to take something reeeally unexpected for the Jazz to bother a rested Rockets squad a whole lot. And the Rockets are approaching full strength: per ESPN’s Tim McMahon, Luc Mbah a Moute is “optimistic” he’ll be able to return to Houston’s rotation for Game 1:
“I’m ready in my mind,” Mbah a Moute told reporters in Houston before the practice, adding that the final determination on his status will be made Sunday. “I’ve done this already, so I’m not used to it, but I pretty much know what to expect.”
This series looks, on paper, to be pretty lopsided, and injury updates aren’t doing the underdogs any favors. Unless they are! Who knows? Given how the Jazz performed against the Rockets in the regular season, their effort sans Rubio could hardly be any worse.