NBA Western Conference first-round playoff recap: Jazz handle Thunder

Tristan Winkelman

Sports Blogger



Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Winner: Rockets

The Houston Rockets held a 2-1 series lead against the Minnesota Timberwolves headed into Game 4 of their first-round NBA playoff series on Monday. The Rockets finally started looking like the dominant team they were during the regular season. They claimed a 119-100 Game 4 victory to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Houston held only a one-point lead heading into halftime. Then it went on an absolute tear, putting up 50 points in the third quarter. James Harden put up 22 of his 36 points in the third quarter to give Houston a spark. Harden finished with 36 points on 12-of-26 shooting. Clint Capela dominated down low once again with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns finally got it going for Minnesota with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

The series headed back to Houston for Game 5 on Wednesday night, when the Rockets closed the series with a 122-104 victory. During the final game-and-a-half, Houston finally started looking like the team that dominated the NBA during the regular season. Capela was once again a difference maker for Houston down low, putting up a team-high 26 points and 15 rebounds. Harden struggled from the floor, shooting 8-for-21 with 24 points. He didn’t let that slow him down, though, as he dished out 12 assists. Capela’s huge contributions down low will keep Houston dangerous throughout these playoffs. Houston is playing  the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz

Winner: Jazz

(asocute, Flickr)

The Utah Jazz held a 2-1 series lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder headed into Game 4 on Monday night. Utah routed OKC 113-96 to take a 3-1 series lead. For a second straight game, Utah’s late second-quarter surge allowed it to pull away from OKC. Donovan Mitchell hasn’t shied away from last season’s MVP Russell Westbrook. Mitchell had 33 points and seven rebounds. With the scoring output, Mitchell set a postseason rookie scoring record for the Jazz, passing Karl Malone’s record. The Utah defense was stifling, holding OKC to 39 percent from the floor. The Thunder finished with only 10 assists on the game, which indicates there has been a lot of ball watching and not enough ball movement. Paul George led the Thunder with 32 points, and Russell Westbrook added 23 points and 14 rebounds. At times, it appeared Westbrook was more concerned with shutting down Ricky Rubio than securing the victory for the Thunder.

The series headed back to OKC for Game 5 on Wednesday night, when the Thunder needed a victory to extend the series. OKC rallied from 25 points down to avoid elimination and beat the Jazz 107-99. Westbrook unleashed the same ferociousness he had in Game 4, but this time he was much more efficient. Westbrook, the reigning league MVP, finished with 45 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Thunder. George added 34 points as he and Westbrook were the only two Thunder players in double figures. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors found themselves in foul trouble throughout the night, which led to OKC getting to the basket much more consistently in the second half rather than settling for jump shots. Jae Crowder led the way for the Jazz with a playoff career-high 27 points. Mitchell had 23 points.

Game 6 headed back to Utah for another win-or-go-home game for the Thunder. This time, Utah took care of business and won 96-91 to close the series. It was the Donovan Mitchell show throughout the game. Mitchell, a rookie, looked like a seasoned veteran at home. He scored 38 points, becoming the third rookie in the last 35 years to have multiple 30-point games in a playoff series. Westbrook also had a huge scoring output with 46 points, but he didn’t receive much help from his two All-Star teammates. Carmelo Anthony and George combined for 12 points on 5-of-23 shooting. There is going to be much speculation this offseason about whether Paul George will stay with the Thunder. Utah is playing the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.

Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs

Winner: Warriors

The Golden State Warriors held a commanding 3-1 lead against the San Antonio Spurs with the series headed back to the Bay Area on Tuesday night. The Warriors finished off the Spurs with a 99-91 victory to win the series. Golden State’s defense was smothering throughout the night, holding the Spurs to 37 percent shooting. Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 25 points, while Klay Thompson found his shooting stroke with 24 points on 11-of-22 shooting. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Spurs, who refused to give up. San Antonio faced a lot of adversity throughout the series, and its effort to compete in another elimination game is worth noting. There is a lot of speculation surrounding whether superstar Kawhi Leonard will return next season. What we do know is that the Spurs never conceded in this series to an overmatched opponent. Golden State will play the New Orleans Pelicans, who swept Portland, in the Western Conference semifinals.






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