In a hard-fought Game 5, Chris Paul led the Rockets with 41 points and 10 assists to send the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in four years.
The first half of Game 5 saw a lot of defense from both teams as the two sides struggled to score. The Jazz were held to a playoff-low 16 points in the first quarter and no team held a double-digit lead in the first half. The Rockets led for majority of the opening stanza, but could not quite pull away.
Utah pulled even with Houston, tying the game at 43 with two minutes in the first half. An 11-3 run in the last part of the first half, led primarily by Paul, gave the Rockets an eight-point lead going into halftime.
The Houston lead ballooned to as much as 11 points early in the third quarter and Utah could not get into a rhythm on offense. Their leading scorer, Donovan Mitchell, only had two points at the time, but then the rookie from Louisville exploded.
Mitchell led a furious Jazz comeback. His 22-point quarter put his team up three points heading into the final frame. But CP3 took over for the Rockets and carried his team to victory.
Mitchell was simply exhausted by the time the fourth quarter rolled around and banged knees with Harden midway through the fourth quarter. He was helped to the locker room, eventually limped back to the sideline with only one shoe on. After his injury — which the Jazz left mysterious during the game — his night, and his season, were over.
CP3’s 41 and 10 assists were a result of a very efficient shooting night, 13-for-22, and a crazy statline from beyond the arc, 7-for-9. This was important on a night where his sidekick, James Harden, was struggling from the floor. The Beard made just seven of his 22 shot attempts, and only one of those makes came from downtown.
CP3’s strongest sidekick tonight was P.J. Tucker, who dropped 19 thanks to a 7-for-9 night from the floor and a 5-for-7 night from downtown. The two big acquisitions from the offseason made their presence felt and got the Rockets over the hump they could not surpass last season.
The Utah supporting cast had a good night. Mitchell led the five players scoring in double digits with 24 points. Alec Burks had 22 off the bench and fellow rookie Royce O’Neale dropped 17. The Achilles heel for the Jazz tonight was the team’s three-point shooting. It was an average 10-28 and it could not keep up with the rate Houston was dropping threes.
As a team, the Rockets shot 48 percent from the floor and 46 percent from deep. Most of those makes came in the fourth quarter, from Paul, Tucker and Gerald Green, and it was ultimately what put the Rockets ahead for good. The win has catapulted them into the Conference Finals, and it’s an incredible feeling.
For CP3, it will be his first visit to the Conference Finals after 85 playoff games without an appearance, the most in NBA history. This has been a long time coming for the 13-year vet, and it is well deserved after the performance he had tonight.