The Rockets are heading to the Western Conference finals thanks to a powerhouse performance from Chris Paul.
Paul exploded for a playoff career-high 41 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, dominating from start to finish as the Rockets held off the Jazz, 112-102.
With CP3 putting on his best performance of the season Tuesday, here are three takeaways from Game 5…
Chris Paul = Man on a mission
Nobody wanted to win this game more than Paul as he finally sealed his first trip to the conference finals.
With James Harden struggling on offense (7-of-22 from the field), Paul took the wheel and kept the Rockets attack humming, scoring 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter. Paul got whatever he wanted from midrange and was even steadier from deep, connecting on a scorching 8-of-10 from the 3-point line. The Jazz just couldn’t slow him down no matter who they put on him.
Paul’s ability to control games is a luxury the Rockets didn’t have last year, especially when Harden wasn’t firing. Whenever the Jazz tried to claw their way back and cut down the lead, Paul provided a steady hand. When his teammates weren’t hitting shots, he just took over.
Chris Paul finished with 41 points, a career playoff high which included 20 points in the 4th quarter, a career-high for most points in a quarter (regular season & playoffs) pic.twitter.com/btPs6yBMDS
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 9, 2018
The small window of success the Jazz found came when Paul was off the floor in the third quarter. After a 12-0 run by Utah, he promptly returned to the court and put an end to that.
Rockets’ perimeter defense
In the lone Rockets loss this series, the Jazz lit them up from the 3-point line, burying 15-of-32 from deep in Game 2. Houston learned its lesson quickly and stopped giving Utah the time or space on the perimeter to do that again.
Paul, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute ran the Jazz shooters off the 3-point line, forcing them to find their offense in the paint and deal with Clint Capela, who finished with five blocks on the night.
Joe Ingles (2-of-6) and Donovan Mitchell (2-of-7), the Jazz’s two biggest threats from deep, could not get their shots off without a Rockets defender right in their faces.
Injuries halt Jazz once again
The Jazz have overcome injuries to several key players all season long, but Tuesday night was a bridge too far.
— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) May 9, 2018
Early in the fourth quarter, Mitchell collided with Harden and went to the locker room, taking the Jazz’s chances of victory with him.
Mitchell single-handedly dragged Utah back into the game in the third quarter, scoring 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting. With him out, the Jazz simply had no answer for a red-hot Paul.