More bluntly put: Taking advantage of not actually upsetting Golden State in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals would (likely) dramatically alter the rest of the series. 65-17, stealing the conference from Golden State by seven games in the regular conference and developing the truly generational offensive talent of James Harden has helped the Rockets become the story of the league this season, and allowed bloggers, analysts and sportscasters alike to ask: could this be the year Goliath falls?
Chris Paul scored a postseason career-high 41 points and PJ Tucker chipped in 19 as the Houston Rockets defeated the Utah Jazz 112-102 on Tuesday at Toyota Center to claim this Western Conference semifinal series in five games. That's a big-time performance. And if he has that look in his eyes, he's a problem.
ESPN notes that Paul's performance on Tuesday is just the second 40-10 game in a series-clincher in National Basketball Association playoff history, with the other being achieved by Jordan during 1989 when he scored 40 points and 10 assists with six turnovers against the New York Knicks in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
Houston beat Golden State two out of the three times the teams played each other this season. As a result, the Over/Under point total for Game 1 has been set at 224 points.
"Kevin is the piece you can't really game plan for because they are so good around him you can't really decide: We're going to keep Kevin out of the game", said Griffin, who will be working with Turner Sports for the NBA Finals.
"We thought we had the game in hand", Kerr added.
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"However, we got them, aiight".
The Jazz beat the odds this season even though they didn't win a championship because they overachieved in a tough western conference. This is a big reason we see a lot of super teams nowadays.
"We are going to see if they are going to be able to adjust and at times be uncomfortable", said Kenny Smith, TNT analyst and two-time champion with the Rockets. The right-hander recorded nine consecutive outs via strikeout between the second and fifth innings, ending with a pickoff of Gregor Blanco at first for the final out in the fifth.
While the Rockets are playing in the Western Conference finals for the second time in four years and first since 2015, the Warriors have been a constant presence in the conference finals as of late. James Harden is averaging 28.5 points and 7.4 assists while Chris Paul is averaging 21.8 points and 6.4 assists.
"He was unbelievable", Harden said afterward.
Most playoff series related topics usually have the caveat of "a series doesn't begin until a home team loses a game" shuffled somewhere throughout it. They should try and make a pitch for either Carmelo Anthony or Paul George, but Utah is over the cap. "It's not about points, it's about the process". This one is going to be a tough, uphill battle but you know the series victor is likely a heavy favorite in the NBA Finals. We get to it now. "Even in the beginning of the year when I got here, it was just thinking a lot, trying to be flawless, trying to make the right play rather than just being aggressive, so I'm continuing to watch film, working out with the coaches and finding myself again slowly".