HOUSTON (AP) — Minutes after the Houston Rockets eliminated the Utah Jazz to advance to the Western Conference semifinals for the third straight season they were already looking ahead to the possibility of getting another shot at the Golden State Warriors.
“Thats what I want,” center Clint Capela said. “I want to face them.”
Veteran Chris Paul slightly scolded the 24-year-old for acknowledging that this is the matchup Houston has been looking forward to all season.
“Thats going to be all over (the internet),” Paul said, shaking his head.
But Paul couldnt deny that the Rockets are well aware that the Warriors have been the biggest roadblock to them vying for their first title in more than 20 years.
“Real talk, in order to get to where you want to get to, you have to go through them,” he said. “Theyre the reigning champs. Theyve been running the West for five years straight now.”
But the Rockets will have to wait to see if theyll get that shot at the Warriors after they failed to close out their series with the Clippers on Wednesday night, as Los Angeles won 129-121 to force Game 6.
Houston has been eliminated by the Warriors in the postseason in three of the last four seasons, including twice in the Western Conference finals. The Rockets took a 3-2 lead over Golden State in the conference finals last year before dropping the final two games with Paul out with a hamstring injury.
“If they come out of it, its going to be a great series,” coach Mike DAntoni said. “We said all year: Lets run it back. Well, OK. I guess were going to run it back.”
Houston took a 3-0 lead in their first-round series against the Jazz before missing all 13 of their 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter of a Game 4 loss in Utah. The Rockets werent particularly sharp on offense in their 100-93 win that closed out the series on Wednesday night, but they were proud of their defense.
Ricky Rubio cut Houstons lead to 94-93 on a jump shot with about a minute left. 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.
James Harden blocked a shot by Ruby Gobert on Utahs next possession and he made two free throws to extend the lead to 98-93 with 38 seconds left.
Donovan Mitchell missed a 3-pointer after that and Paul added two more free throws to secure the victory.
“We missed some easy shots, turned the ball over and they got going,” P.J. Tucker said. “But in the second half, we finally got stops to get the win.”
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