Tough defense helps Rockets advance with win over Jazz

HOUSTON — In a series in which their shots weren’t falling like normal, the Rockets managed to close out Utah with some tough defense.

James Harden scored 26 points and Houston outlasted the Jazz 100-93 on Wednesday night to win the 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 Clippers-Warriors series.

The Rockets had 12 steals and 12 blocks, the first playoff game in which they had double figures in both since Game 5 of the 1994 Western Conference finals, just before they won their first title.

“We didn’t make as many shots as we wanted to … but these last few games, we hung our hat on defense,” Harden said.

Ricky Rubio cut Houston’s lead to 94-93 on a jump shot with about a minute left. P.J. Tucker missed two free-throw tries, 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 Harden made two free throws to extend the lead to 98-93 with 38 seconds left.

Donovan Mitchell, who was 4-for-22, missed a 3-point try after that and Chris Paul added two more free throws to secure the victory.

“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.”

Kristie Rieken is an Associated Press reporter.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Tough-defense-helps-Rockets-advance-with-win-over-13793828.php.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *