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Chris Paul, Rockets Advance to WCF with Win over Jazz; Donovan Mitchell Injured

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2018

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 8: Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Utah Jazz during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The drought is over.

For the first time in his 13-year career, Chris Paul is headed to the Western Conference Finals after he led the Houston Rockets to a 112-102 Game 5 win over the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center on Tuesday night.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Chris Paul finally makes a conference finals. https://t.co/RGLYF4V9ip

Paul, whose teams failed to qualify for the Western Conference Finals in each of his previous nine postseason appearances, finished the series clincher with a playoff career-high 41 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and zero turnovers to fend off a fierce Jazz charge led by Donovan Mitchell.

While the rookie was limited to two points in the first half, he finished with 24 points and nine assists after erupting for 22 points in the third quarter as Utah fought to stay alive with Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum both out because of hamstring injuries.

Mitchell was so locked in that he outscored Houston in the third quarter, 22-21, to put the Jazz up by three entering the final frame. However, he left with 7:09 remaining in the fourth quarter after suffering a left foot injury and did not return.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Donovan Mitchell outscored the Rockets by himself in the 3rd quarter. Mitchell is the only rookie in the last 20 postseasons with a 20-point quarter and he's now done it twice. https://t.co/ZxZc2iHoCY

That opened the door for the Rockets to slam the door shut, and Paul seized the moment by dropping 20 fourth-quarter points as he squashed a pesky narrative that had come to define his past decade in the NBA:

Stephen A Smith @stephenasmith

Ladies & Gentlemen, what a spectacular performance from @CP3. Just sensational. He wants it so bad. He’s doing special things tonight.

Royce Young @royceyoung

Chris Paul is just gonna go ahead and send himself to the Western Conference finals.

Micah Peters @micahpeters_

Chris Paul has about had it up to HERE with your jokes

Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie

Chris Paul basically just going F-you mode to push the playoff detractors to the side is beautiful.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Chris Paul finished with 41 points, a career playoff high which included 20 points in the 4th quarter, a career-high for most points in a quarter (regular season & playoffs) https://t.co/btPs6yBMDS

nick wright @getnickwright

CP3 has deserved this moment forever. Dude hit a G7 buzzer beater to beat the damn Spurs & folks act like he's a choker. This is so awesome.

Paul's closing flurry also helped compensate for an off night from James Harden, who appeared tentative and a tad sluggish attacking the teeth of a Jazz defense commandeered by shot-blocking maven Rudy Gobert.

Absent a rhythm, Harden finished with 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting, four assists and three turnovers. He was also limited to four free-throw attempts with Gobert (five blocks) constantly lurking as a rim-protecting deterrent in the paint.

Harden may have been operating at less than 100 percent, according to head coach Mike D'Antoni:

Royce Young @royceyoung

Mike D’Antoni says James Harden was under the weather tonight. “He was hurting tonight.”

But thanks to Paul and P.J. Tucker (19 points, 5-of-7 shooting from three), the Rockets had just enough juice to get past a resilient Jazz team that could have serious staying power:

Ricky Rubio @rickyrubio9

It’s not over, this is just the beginning. Just wait and see. https://t.co/0LudydSytX

Now through to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2015, Houston will wait to see whether it will square off against the second-seeded Golden State Warriors or sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.

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