“For us it was just … they were in the way,” Paul said. “So we were just trying to get another win.”
His Rockets teammates saw it a little differently. They were eager to talk about Paul’s dominant performance, including a playoff career-high 41 points, in a 112-102 victory in Game 5 that eliminated the Jazz.
“He went out there and took over the game,” James Harden said. “(To have) an opportunity for him that he’s never had before. He went to go get it. He put us all on his back and said listen: ‘I got us.'”
Paul made eight 3-pointers and had 10 assists and seven rebounds without a turnover. He’s the first player in playoff history to have at least 40 points and 10 assists without a turnover since turnovers became an official statistic in 1977-78, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“The performance that Chris put out there — if he didn’t make it out this time, something’s wrong,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
It will be Houston’s second trip to the Western Conference finals in four years and the first ever for Paul. The point guard, who is in his 13th NBA season, has been panned for failing to get past the second round in his nine previous trips to the playoffs.
While he wouldn’t talk about finally getting over the second-round hump, he had no problem discussing how much he’s enjoying this season.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “It’s not about the points or anything like that. It’s about the process.”
Houston will meet the winner of the series between Golden State and New Orleans, which the Warriors lead 3-1.
Star rookie Donovan Mitchell had 22 of his 24 points for Utah in the third quarter before leaving with about seven minutes left with an apparent left leg injury. The team didn’t provide an update on his condition after the game, but he was wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
“Unhappy with the results, but happy with everybody as a whole,” Mitchell said.
Houston returns to the conference finals for the first time since 2015. It’s the second straight season the Jazz lost in this round after being swept by Golden State last season. (The Associated Press)