Paul shoots Rockets to West finals, ends Jazz’s surprising season
It was an underwhelming finish to what was otherwise an overachieving season for the Utah Jazz.
Chris Paul scored 41 points to go along with 10 assists and seven rebounds, P.J. Tucker had 19 points and James Harden finished with 18 as the top-seeded Houston Rockets defeated the Jazz 112-100 on Tuesday night in Houston.
With the win, the Rockets took the best-of-seven series 4-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Houston will face either Golden State or New Orleans. The Warriors lead the Pelicans 3-1, with Game 5 late Tuesday in Oakland, California.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell scored 22 of his 24 points in the third quarter before being carted off the court in the fourth with an injury to his left foot. X-rays were negative, the Jazz tweeted after the game. He is expected to be evaluated again when the team returns to Salt Lake City.
“He just kept competing and from an offensive standpoint kind of broke through in that third quarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Mitchell after the game.
Alec Burks came off the bench to score 22 for the Jazz, who played without starting point guard Ricky Rubio, as well as backup point guard Dante Exum. Royce O’Neale had 17 for Utah, which finished the season 48-34 and earned the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.
The absence of Rubio and Exum forced Mitchell to slide from his regular shooting guard spot to the point.
The Jazz defeated the fourth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder to advance to the semifinal showdown with the Rockets.
In the end, Paul and the Rockets were too much for the Jazz. Paul hit 13 of 22 shots — including 8 of 10 from 3-point range — and sealed the victory for Houston when he banked in a 3 late the game.
“He’s a great player,” Mitchell said of Paul. “Tonight he showed he wanted it. … Taking over the way he did was very impressive.”
Houston was on fire from 3 Tuesday, hitting 18 of 39 attempts or 46.2 percent.
“They’re a great team,” said Jazz forward Joe Ingles, who finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds. “They have a lot of weapons. … They played well.”
Ingles said he was proud of the way his team refused to give up against the top-seeded Rockets.
“I’m proud of our guys for our effort, not just tonight but for the whole year,” he said.
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