The Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets each dispatched their second-round opponents in Game 5 matchups Tuesday night, setting up a highly anticipated clash in the Western Conference finals.
First, the Rockets defeated the Utah Jazz 112-102 to clinch a 4-1 series victory. Chris Paul scored 41 points for Houston, as the 13-year veteran finally booked his first appearance in the Western Conference finals.
“He went out there and took over the game,” teammate James Harden said after the game. “[This is] an opportunity for him that he’s never had before. He went to go get it.”
Utah led the game 78-75 after the third quarter, during which Donovan Mitchell scored 22 of his 24 points. But the rookie sensation was forced out of the game with a left leg injury with about seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, providing a disappointing end to his first season.
“Unhappy with the results, but happy with everybody as a whole,” Mitchell told reporters after the game.
Star Players Power Warriors
Hours later, the Warriors joined the Rockets in the Western Conference final by defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 to take a 4-1 series victory. The Warriors put the game away with a 25-4 run to start the second half, turning what had been a close contest into a dominant display by Golden State.
Stephen Curry scored 28 points to lead the Warriors, while Kevin Durant added 24 and Klay Thompson scored 23. More importantly for Curry, he was able to play 37 minutes, the most time he has spent on the court since returning from the knee injury that kept him out of action for more than a month.
“”I feel confident in what I’m able to do out there,” Curry told reporters after the game. “I’ll continue to get better, continue to get my timing right, continue to get back to the normal rotation, the normal minutes I’m out there playing and hopefully won’t look back.”
Will Western Conference Finals Determine NBA Champion?
The results of the second round series were about what most observers expected. The Warriors and Rockets have been favorites to win the NBA championship since early in the season. The series between the two, which begins on Monday night in Houston, could have an even more dramatic feel than the NBA Finals themselves, as the winner will be a heavy favorite over any team that comes out of the Eastern Conference.
The teams themselves have known this clash has been a long time coming, and both teams sound like they are ready for the challenge.
“They have made it known that their team is built to beat us,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said of the Rockets on Tuesday night. “That stuff has been said for about a year now. It’s time to play.”
“This team is going to be hard, it’s going to be a fight,” Rockets center Clint Capela said of the Warriors after Houston won their series over Utah. “We’re just excited. Everybody’s excited about it. And I’m sure all the NBA fans are excited about it, too.”
Despite having home court advantage, the Rockets are considered a slight underdog to the Warriors. Ladbrokes has posted Golden State as a 4/7 favorite, while Houston can be backed at 29/20 odds.