HOUSTON (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz never found their shooting groove in this series, and their season is now oveer.
James Harden scored 26 points, while Chris Paul added 15, and the Rockets outlasted the Utah Jazz 100-93 on Wednesday night to win their first-round playoff series 4-1.
Houston advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the third straight season and will face the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors series. The Warriors lead that series 3 games to 2.
The Jazz made just 9 of 38 three-pointers, while leading scorer Donovan Mitchell scored just 12 points on 4 of 22 shooting.
“Obviously in a closeout game, you don’t want to shoot 4 of 22 with five turnovers, but that happened,” Mitchell said. “You don’t succeed without failure. You don’t succeed without going through times like this. So, to have that so vividly in my head in a time like this, I can tell you that I’m upset, but I’m going to be better.”
“In a lot of ways, how Donovan goes at times, we go,” said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. “I won’t call it a burden, but it’s a responsibility that I think he’s shown time and time again even for a young player, to understand that and to rise to the challenge.”
The Rockets had 12 steals and 12 blocks, as the Jazz committed 15 turnovers and shot just 37 percent from the field.
”We didn’t make as many shots as we wanted to,” Harden said. “But these last few games we hung our hat on defense.”
Ricky Rubio cut Houston’s lead to 94-93 on a jump shot with about a minute left. P.J. Tucker missed two free throws, but grabbed a loose ball seconds later and was fouled again. This time he made both shots to make it 96-93.
Harden blocked a shot by Ruby Gobert on Utah’s next possession and he made two free throws to extend the lead to 98-93 with 38 seconds left.
“I think in the fourth quarter, we made a lot of mental mistakes and they capitalized on them,” said Jazz forward Derrick Favors. “It’s just basketball, you make shots and you miss shots. We just had a tough shooting series. I don’t think it was anything mental, I think we just missed shots.”
”We didn’t want to go back to Utah,” Paul said. ”We wanted to take care of business tonight. All night we were talking about energy. It’s always hard to beat a team and close them out.”
The Rockets got a solid game from Clint Capela, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. He acknowledged having trouble breathing in the Game 4 loss because of an upper respiratory infection and was held to just four points.
”I felt a lot better,” Capela said. ”I definitely felt like another person than (I did) the last game.”
After scoring 31 points to lead Utah to the victory in Game 4, Mitchell managed just 12 points on a night he missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.
”I’m upset but I’m going to be better,” the second-year player said. ”Simply put. I wasn’t tonight and I’ll be better.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder lamented the difficulties of dealing with a veteran coach like Mike D’Antoni and perennial All-Stars Paul and Harden.
”They’re so cerebral that they’re able to find weaknesses in your defense,” he said.
Royce O’Neale led the Jazz with a season-high 18 points, and was the primary defender on Harden, who was held to under his season average of 36 points in all five games of the series.
“He’s an MVP candidate,” O’Neale said about Harden. “As myself, I take the challenge, with the help of these guys, I can’t do it all by myself. So, I think we all accepted the challenge, but he’s a great player.”
Harden struggled to get going early and didn’t score in the first quarter. But after missing his first seven shots and 11 of his first 12 attempts, he finally found a rhythm.
Royce O’Neal came off the bench to lead Utah with 18 points, Rubio had 17 and Jae Crowder added 15. Gobert wasn’t much of a factor in this one, scoring just nine points with 10 rebounds.
The Jazz opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 77-75 lead with 9 minutes left. Rubio had two steals and a basket to help Utah go on top.
Houston ended its scoring drought after that, scoring the next five points, capped by a three-point play from Harden to make it 80-77.
Rubio made a 3-pointer for Utah before Paul scored five quick points to extend Houston’s advantage to 85-80 with 7 minutes left.
Houston trailed by seven late in the second quarter before using a 14-3 run to lead by four entering the third. Harden scored eight of his 10 first-half points during that run. The Rockets kept it going to start the third, using a 10-2 spurt to make it 56-44 with about 10 minutes left in the quarter. Harden and Tucker had 3-pointers in that span and Capela added a dunk.
Danuel House made a 3-pointer and Harden added a layup seconds later to leave Houston up by 11 later in the quarter. But O’Neal made a 3 soon after that to before Mitchell added a three-point play to get Utah within 68-63 with about 2 minutes left in the third.
Austin Rivers ended Utah’s run with a 3-pointer to extend Houston’s lead to 71-63.
The Jazz cut the lead to 4 with less than 30 seconds left in the third after scoring four straight points, but Nene made a basket at the buzzer to leave Houston up 75-69 entering the fourth.