Paul sparks Rockets to road win, 3-1 series lead over Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — Chris Paul was too much for the Utah Jazz, scoring 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds on his 33rd birthday to lead the Houston Rockets to a 100-87 victory Sunday night.
It was the first double-double of the postseason for Paul, whose Rockets took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with the win and can close out the Jazz on Tuesday in Houston.
“We’re not satisfied just being up 3-1,” Rockets guard James Harden said. “(From the) start of training camp, the beginning of the regular season and this entire regular season, we didn’t come this far just to be up 3-1 in the semifinals. We’ve got a long way to go. (This is) a good road win for us though.”
Harden scored 24 points and had four of Houston’s 11 steals in the game, and Clint Capela added 12 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks for the Rockets, who won an NBA-best 65 games during the regular season. Five of Capela’s six blocks came in the final three minutes of the game.
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell bounced back from a poor shooting night Friday in Game 3 to finish with 25 points. The NBA Rookie of the Year candidate also had nine rebounds and four steals before fouling out in the game’s waning moments.
But the Jazz trailed in the game from start to finish, falling behind 11-3 early. The Rockets led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter before pulling within five points in the game’s final six minutes.
Mitchell said the Jazz haven’t been as “connected” on the court in Games 3 and 4 at Vivint Arena as they were in Game 2 in Houston — a 116-108 Utah victory.
“The last 15, 16 minutes of this game, we saw how connected we can be,” he said. “We moved the ball and played well. … We were just on a different level in Game 2, and I think we’ve just got to get back to that.”
Joe Ingles added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Rudy Gobert finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots — including a pair of blocks on the Rockets’ opening possession.
Raul Neto chipped in with nine points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the second half to keep the Jazz in contention.
Dante Exum gave the Jazz a spark off the bench before leaving the game with an injury, finishing with nine points in just 10 minutes of court time.
Mitchell, who had just 10 points in a lopsided loss in Game 3, again started slowly but scored 13 points in the second quarter.
“I could not be more satisfied with the way he responded from his game the other night,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “And it’s not like it came easy.”
Mitchell shot 8-for-24 in the game — including 2-of-7 from 3-point range. The rookie has scored 20 or more points in eight of Utah’s postseason games this season.
As a team, Utah shot just 38.6 percent from the floor and made only 7 of 29 3-pointers, or 24.1 percent.
Snyder called Capela’s impact on the series “significant.”
“He makes winning plays,” the Jazz coach said.
Houston’s long-range shooting wasn’t much better, connecting on just 10 of 38 3-point attempts for 26.3 percent.
“We haven’t shot well the whole series,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.
“There’s different ways to win. We’re not strictly a jump-shooting team,” D’Antoni said, citing Paul’s midrange shots, Harden’s drives to the basket and Capela’s play in the post. “We’ve got a lot of other stuff we can go to.”
Utah again was without starting point guard Ricky Rubio, who continues to battle a left hamstring injury.
Prior to Sunday’s game, Snyder said Rubio is “closer than he has been” to being ready to play this series, “just not able to do it and be effective.”
“I think it’s hard for him right now. I know how bad he wants to play. … He’s just not there,” the Jazz coach said.
That puts additional pressure on Mitchell, Snyder said, as the rookie is having to shift to point guard in Rubio’s absence.
“What Donovan is trying to do right now is he’s a rookie that’s led us in scoring and has been our primary offensive option all year,” Snyder said. “Now he’s being asked to play point guard against the best team in the league.”
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