For a moment Wednesday, the Houston Rockets looked on the verge of a second straight fourth-quarter collapse against the Utah Jazz.
But following an 8-0 Utah run to start the game’s final stanza, Chris Paul stopped the bleeding with a midrange jump shot to tie the game at 77-77.
For the rest of the game, the Rockets fended off a resilient Jazz team that couldn’t quite close the deal for a second straight game as Houston closed out the series with a 100-93 win at home.
The Rockets advance to the second round of the playoffs with a 4-1 series victory.
Harden not his normally efficient self
Houston won despite another poor shooting night from MVP candidate James Harden, who missed 10 of his first 11 attempts from the field. With a potential matchup against the Golden State Warriors pending, Harden’s shooting woes are reason for concern.
Is Harden tired?
Harden carried the team through the bulk of the regular season as Houston’s other key players battled injury, raising worries about how much he would have left in the tank for the postseason.
The good news for Houston and Harden is that the series won’t be extended another game after the Rockets blew a chance to sweep the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Monday.
Harden led the Rockets in scoring Wednesday with 26 points. But he needed 26 shots to get there while shooting 10-of-26 from the field.
He added 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in a stat-stuffing performance that wouldn’t raise concern for many other players. But Wednesday’s poor shooting comes two games removed from Game 3’s 3-for-20 effort in another game Houston was fortunate to survive.
Houston was good enough to beat Utah in both games. Similar efforts won’t cut it in an anticipated showdown with the Warriors.
Capela wants the Warriors
Paul, Clint Capela and Eric Gordon all scored in double figures for the Rockets as well as Paul tallied 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists and Capela logged 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Capela told reporters he wants a rematch of last year’s conference finals with the Warriors.
Rockets on facing the Warriors in Round 2— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 25, 2019
Clint Capela: "That's what I want. I want to face them."
Chris Paul: "Oh, man, you're going to be all over Bleacher Report. Look at you, can't wait to tweet it."
Capela: "If you want to be the champion you've got to beat the champion." pic.twitter.com/dSXnQu3lwB
“If you want to be the champion, you’ve got to beat the champion,” Capela said.
The Warriors haven’t yet punched their ticket to the second round, though. The Los Angeles Clippers won Game 5 later Wednesday to extend that series to a sixth game with Golden State leading, 3-2.
With their second-round opponent still playing, the Rockets now have time to rest after toppling the Jazz.
There were no heroics from Game 4 savior Donovan Mitchell on Wednesday. After rallying Utah with a 19-point fourth quarter Monday, Mitchell shot 4-of-22 from the field in Game 5 while missing all 9 3-point attempts en route to 12 points.
Ricky Rubio tallied 17 and 11 assists and Jae Crowder logged 15 and 10 rebounds to lead the Jazz.
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