SALT LAKE CITY – Chris Paul had 27 points and 12 rebounds while James Harden scored 24 points to power the Houston Rockets to a 100-87 win over the Utah Jazz last night, taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
Paul, playing the sidekick to Harden for most of his first season in Houston, took center stage, controlling the tempo and getting to his favourite spots as the Rockets led from start to finish.
Donovan Mitchell scored 25 before fouling out and Joe Ingles had 15 for the Jazz.
Mitchell started finding lanes to the basket late and got the Jazz within 85-80 after he fuelled a 10-2 run. But Paul, who matched his scoring high for this playoff run, hit a pull-up jumper and found Trevor Ariza for a 3-pointer to put the Rockets back up by double digits and they never looked back.
Houston, which has been known for their offensive firepower, put forth a disruptive defensive effort.
Clint Capela, the anchor of the Houston defence, had 12 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks, one of which featured a Dikembe Mutombo-like finger wag in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets went up by 15 in the second quarter before the Jazz closed to 51-46 on back-to-back three-point plays by Mitchell. Utah trailed 58-48 at the half.
Neither team was accurate from beyond the arc as the Jazz were 7-for-29 and Houston went 10-for-38.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Kevin Durant had 38 points and nine rebounds and Golden State Warrior soundly defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 118-92 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
The Warriors responded to their 19-point loss in Game 3 with a resounding effort that produced a wire-to-wire win with leads as large as 26 points.
Durant made 15 of 27 shots. Stephen Curry scored 23, Klay Thompson added 13 and Quinn Cook, who was a Pelicans reserve earlier this season, contributed 12 points.
Anthony Davis had 26 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, but the Pelicans hit only 36 percent (32 of 88) of their shots, missing 22 of 26 3-point attempts.
E’Twaun Moore scored 20 and Jrue Holiday 19, but New Orleans reserves combined for just 14 points after scoring 32 two nights earlier. Rajon Rondo finished with 11 rebounds, but the Pelicans also committed 19 turnovers, which led to 21 Warriors points.
After shooting poorly for much of their loss on Friday night, the Warriors were eager to regain their rhythm and did so immediately. They hit six of their first eight shots, with Durant making his first three, and Thompson and Curry each making 3s. That and solid defence that included Green’s block of Rondo’s layup helped Golden State open up a 10-point lead before the game was four minutes old.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, missed eight of their first 10 shots and trailed 20-6 after Green made Golden State’s fourth 3 of the game’s first six minutes.
The Warriors led by as many as 18 in the first half when Cook’s floater made it 33-15 late in the first quarter.
The Pelicans shot 37 percent in the first half, but with good rebounding and free-throw shooting, they managed to slowly grind the Warriors’ lead down to a seemingly manageable seven by halftime, only to have Golden State storm out of the gate in the third quarter.
Rondo’s bounce pass uncharacteristically handcuffed Davis as he cut to the hoop for what looked like a thunderous dunk in the making. Moments later, Durant was taking a cross-court pass from Green in transition and throwing down a soaring one-handed jam.
Andre Iguodala and Curry followed with 3s soon after, and in a mere two minutes, the Warriors’ lead had ballooned to 15.
The Warriors continued to pull away and led 94-71 after Iguodala hit Golden State’s ninth 3 of the game late in the period. The gap never narrowed closer than 19 points after that.