Posted on May 9, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Most men will never quite understand what it means to be “always a bridesmaid but never a bride.” But Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul knows what it’s like. During his lengthy career, he has been a mainstay in the playoffs. But he had never made it past the Conference Semifinals.
Always in the playoffs, but never the Conference Finals– until now.
Like any good “bridesmaid,” Paul took control of his own destiny by setting a new career-playoff high with 41 points, 20 of which came in the final quarter alone, to lead the Rockets to a 112-102 win. The 18,000-plus in attendance made sure he felt the love with chants of “CP3! CP3! CP3! CP3!” in the fourth quarter.
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“(Chris) got in his bag,” Harden told reporters postgame (USAToday). “He called everybody off. He said, ‘You get out of the way. I’m putting you on my back.'”
With Harden battling an illness, he was not his usual productive self-hitting just seven of 22 shots for 18 points on the night—so, it was good Paul was able to lead the way. He had ten assists and seven rebounds to go with his 41 points.
Much of Paul’s work came in true Houston fashion, behind the three-point line. Paul hit a ridiculous eight of ten three-pointers, and he wasn’t alone. Houston’s P.J. Tucker had a great night behind the arc a well hitting five of his seven attempts.
Just to make his night a little better, Paul became the first player in NBA playoff history to score 40 and record ten assists without committing a turnover (according to Elias Sports).
“(Chris) just willed us to win,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters (USAToday). “His performance tonight was off the charts….”
While the win was convincing, the Jaz did put up a pretty good fight. Utah struggled from the floor in the first which helped Houston take a 21-16 lead into the second quarter. Both offenses woke up, but Houston’s woke up more. When halftime rolled around, the Rockets held a 54-46 lead.
But the Jazz were far from done—not as long as Donovan Mitchell had something to say about the outcome. After being held to just two points in the first half, the rookie exploded for 22-points in the third. Heading into the final quarter, it was Utah in front, 78-75.
Mitchell ended up leaving the game with around seven minutes left in the fourth with a leg injury.
Houston was not going to be denied, though. After Derrick Favors pushed the lead to 80-75, Houston responded with a three-pointer by Paul followed by one from P.J. Tucker. But the Rockets didn’t take the lead for good until Gerald Green scored five-points to make the score 86-82 early in the quarter.
Utah stayed within striking distance for the remainder of the game. But every time they got close, the Rockets extended their lead a little more.
While he was clearly enjoying the moment after the game, Paul still managed to keep things in perspective (ESPN):
“Not at all. Who plays just for that? We’ve got eight more wins to get. I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Four of those wins will have to come against the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals. The Warriors finished off their series with the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night with a 113-104 win.
The Rockets won the regular season series between the two, 2-1.