Sports

Rockets crush Utah's Cinderella dreams on march toward showdown with Warriors

Rockets crush Utah's Cinderella dreams on march toward showdown with Warriors

A game 5 win would put Chris Paul into the Conference Finals for the first time in his career.

James Harden had 25 points and 12 assists to lead Houston to a 113-92 win over Utah in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series on Friday night. "Sh- went bad real quick".

Then, he went into the locker room with his Rockets teammates.

"I hope they win", she said. "I don't remember. I don't remember". I got the steal.

Asked to elaborate on the 3-1 lead's significance given that history during their post-game press conference, Paul and Harden both demurred. In addition to Exum's day-to-day status, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com reported Rubio was deemed questionable for Game 4 before ultimately sitting out, suggesting he may not be far from returning.

The Houston Rockets' dynamic offence and All-Star backcourt get most of the attention, but it's their defence that has been their bedrock in the playoffs.

"I've been here before, 3-1", he said. Clint Capela ended the run with a dunk and the Rockets proceeded to outscore the Jazz 31-9 over a 10 minute stretch extending into the third quarter.

"I gotta pass the ball", Mitchell said. This is a very talented team that's very hungry.

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Anderson is now shooting at a 42.2 percent clip from three on the road and a WHOPPING 63.6 percent against the Utah Jazz this season.

Utah has missed Ricky Rubio, who strained his hamstring in Game 6 against the Thunder and hasn't taken the floor in this series. The Jazz scored 64 points in the first half, before losing their 18-point lead early in the third quarter. The goal is to win a championship, of course, but doing so would most likely require them to first confront the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the postseason. "Every time the moment gets bigger, he gets better and not everybody can say that".

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who signed with the Clippers in the summer that followed their collapse, knows as well as anyone how that series stuck with Paul. At the time, they were the ninth team in the National Basketball Association history to blow a 3-1 lead in a seven-game series. They engineered a smart trade at the trade deadline, flipping an inconsistent Rodney Hood for Jae Crowder, who fits in perfectly with this tenacious, defense-minded group. He connected on 85.8 percent of his attempts in the regular season, so if you foul the man, he's probably going to knock 'em down.

Houston is a 12-point favorite on the opening line, while the game's Over/Under (O/U) opened at 209.5 points.

Utah's backs are against the wall entering Game 5, down 3-1, but the team will continue to fight. Houston led wire to wire in game 4 en route to a 100-87 victory. "That doesn't show up on the stat sheet", Paul said.

"He's on a totally different team, totally different atmosphere, surrounding himself with more talent".

TOUGH CHALLENGE: The Pelicans never know which Golden State star might be on any given night - or all of them at once. The Rockets veteran has had another stellar series on both ends of the court, and is now on the cusp of his first-ever trip to the conference finals.

Utah's chances in the series hinge on its best players putting up exceptional performances against Houston.


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