Houston — Chris Paul didn’t want to talk about his postseason failures, not after Houston’s win Tuesday over Utah finally got him into the Western Conference finals.
“For us it was just … they were in the way,” Paul said. “So we were just trying to get another win.”
His Rockets teammates saw it a little differently. They were eager to talk about Paul’s dominant performance, including a playoff career-high 41 points, in a 112-102 victory in Game 5 that eliminated the Jazz.
“He went out there and took over the game,” James Harden said. “(To have) an opportunity for him that he’s never had before. He went to go get it. He put us all on his back and said listen: ‘I got us.’”
Paul made eight 3-pointers and had 10 assists and seven rebounds without a turnover. He’s the first player in playoff history to have at least 40 points and 10 assists without a turnover since turnovers became an official statistic in 1977-78, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“The performance that Chris put out there – if he didn’t make it out this time, something’s wrong,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
It will be Houston’s second trip to the Western Conference finals in four years and the first ever for Paul. The point guard, who is in his 13th NBA season, has been panned for failing to get past the second round in his nine previous trips to the playoffs.
While he wouldn’t talk about finally getting over the second-round hump, he had no problem discussing how much he’s enjoying this season.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “It’s not about the points or anything like that. It’s about the process.”
Houston will meet the winner of the series between Golden State and New Orleans, which the Warriors lead 3-1.
Paul is a nine-time All-Star in his first season with Houston after an offseason trade from the Los Angeles Clippers. His previous career-best in the playoffs was 35 points, which he accomplished three times.
Star rookie Donovan Mitchell had 22 of his 24 points for Utah in the third quarter before leaving with about seven minutes left with an apparent left leg injury. The team didn’t provide an update on his condition after the game, but he was wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
“Unhappy with the results, but happy with everybody as a whole,” Mitchell said.
Houston returns to the conference finals for the first time since 2015. It’s the second straight season the Jazz lost in this round after being swept by Golden State last season.
The top-seeded Rockets led by eight points after a 3-pointer by Paul with about six minutes left. The Jazz scored the next seven points, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Royce O’Neale, before Paul made eight quick points to push Houston’s lead to 105-96 with about three minutes left.
Joe Ingles made a basket for Utah before Paul added another basket to make it 107-98. The crowd began chanting “CP3” repeatedly as Paul dribbled down the court on the next possession.
The Jazz were without Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum because of hamstring injuries. Rubio has missed the entire series with his injury, and Exum was injured in the third quarter of Game 5.
P.J. Tucker scored a playoff career-best 19 points, and Harden added 18 points on a night he was “under the weather,” according to D’Antoni.
Mitchell’s huge third quarter left the Jazz up by 3 to begin the fourth. Derrick Favors made a layup for Utah to start the final quarter before Paul and Tucker hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Houston back on top 81-80 with about 10 minutes left.
Utah regained the lead on a basket by O’Neale before Houston used an 11-5 spurt, with the first five points from Gerald Green, to take a 92-87 lead with about seven minutes left. Harden capped the run with a dunk after stealing the ball from Mitchell. Mitchell was injured on that play and grabbed his left leg. He had to be helped to the bench and was quickly taken to the locker room with the help of two people.
(At) Golden State 113, New Orleans 104: Stephen Curry had 28 points, Kevin Durant scored 24 and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the Western Conference finals by dismantling Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 in Game 5 of Tuesday night.
Klay Thompson added 23 points for the Warriors, who with a 15th straight home playoff win tied Chicago for an NBA record. The Bulls did so from April 27, 1990, to May 21, 1991.
Davis had 34 points and 19 rebounds for a Pelicans team that overcame the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon three months ago to make this strong run. The Pelicans shaved the lead to seven points with two minutes left on a basket by Davis before Draymond Green’s turnaround fadeaway moments later.
The Warriors advance to play the top-seeded Houston Rockets in what has long been an anticipated Western Conference finals matchup – with a Finals feel, perhaps – and one Golden State will start on the road Monday night. The teams didn’t meet during the 2017 postseason, but the Warriors won a five-game series in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. Houston eliminated Utah in its Game 5 earlier Tuesday.
Curry, who returned for Game 2 after nearly six weeks out with a knee injury, knocked down an open 3-pointer midway through the third and raised his hands to get the crowd going, then made another less than two minutes later. He converted three free throws at the 6:25 mark following a hard foul by Jrue Holiday.
In the second quarter, Holiday shoved Curry hard into the basket, enraging the two-time MVP who let the officials know how upset he was by the push and no call.
Holiday contributed 27 points and 11 assists, but even with better shooting, New Orleans couldn’t stay with deep, score-at-will Golden State.
The defending champions are serious about a repeat title, and took one step closer to that goal.
So far this postseason, with Durant and Green leading the way, the Warriors have admirably defended the slower San Antonio Spurs and now the imposing, push-the-pace Pelicans.
Green had another superb all-around night on both ends with 19 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
The Warriors came out of halftime with a 10-0 run over the opening 1:54, forcing two Pelicans timeouts and taking control for the rest of the game.
Thompson hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first to put Golden State up 17-10, the second right in front of his own bench as teammates erupted in celebration. He began 6 for 9 and had 14 points by the 4:10 mark of the first.
Durant became irate when Nikola Mirotic made a late, hard bump on a 3-point try with 5:23 left in the first – a play that was reviewed and Mirotic received just a common foul.
As Durant took free throws, Green tried to listen in on the Pelicans’ huddle before official Josh Tiven pulled him away.