As the Houston Rockets continue to advance in these playoffs, the decision to trade for Chris Paul looks like one of the best bets that Daryl Morey has made.
At the beginning of the season, Daryl Morey set a few goals for the Houston Rockets. Morey said that he’d like to see the Rockets get the No. 1 seed. Check. Morey also wanted this squad to win more games in the regular season than any team in Rockets history. Mission accomplished.
His last, and most important goal, is for the Rockets to defeat the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in a 7 game series. Daryl Morey just might get his wish, as the Rockets and Warriors are set to face off in the Western Conference Finals. Is anyone shocked? No. Any logical basketball fan knew that, barring injuries, Houston and Golden State were going to meet on the battlefield and fight for conference supremacy.
But before we examine the next series, lets take a look at Houston’s last game. It’s an unwritten rule that closeout games are the most difficult to win, and with James Harden under the weather, Chris Paul earned his entire season’s pay in Game 5.
Down 3-1, on the road and facing an eight point deficit heading into the third quarter, the Jazz knew that they were 24 minutes away from an early summer vacation. They responded by out scoring Houston 32-to-21 in the third quarter, with 22 of those points coming from Donovan Mitchell.
A long 3-pointer from Mitchell gave Utah a six point lead with just over a minute left before the fourth quarter. Chris Paul responded with a 3-pointer of his own, slashing the lead to just three points. Paul then proceeded to slash Utah’s season in a fourth quarter to remember.
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CP3 opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer. About a minute later, he found P.J. Tucker for a wide open 3-pointer. With a little pep in his step, Paul started scoring from all over the court. He converted on one of his patented mid range jumpers, followed by a 3 at the top of the key and then another step back 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Rudy Gobert.
After that, Paul nailed another mid range jumper followed by a ridiculous fadeaway bank shot 3-pointer to beat the shot clock. That 3-pointer put Houston up by nine points with just over two minutes remaining and it zapped whatever energy that Utah still had left in the tank.
When the clock hit triple zeroes, Chris Paul had poured in 41 points, setting a playoff career high, and he also dished out 10 assists. Paul exploded for 20 points in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points straight at one point. Paul also joined Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to finish with at least 40 points and 10 assists in a series-clinching win.
James Harden struggled for the second game in a row, finishing with just 18 points and 4 assists on 7-of-22 shooting. Clint Capela had just 5 points and only two shot attempts. Eric Gordon finished with only five points as well. Yet, Houston still scored 112 points and won by double-digits.
The Rockets wouldn’t have been able to pull off such a win with last year’s roster. When Harden struggled against San Antonio, there wasn’t another guy who was talented enough to carry the Rockets to victory.
Sure, Houston gave up a lot for Chris Paul. However, Game 5 proved why even four or five role players are worth sacrificing for one superstar. When it’s May and buckets are hard to come by and everyone is running on fumes, you need a superstar to take over the game.
On Tuesday night, with Harden struggling, Chris Paul showed that he is the extra superstar that Houston was previously missing. Daryl Morey, you are a genius.