Published: Thu, May 10, 2018
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Chris Paul reaches first Western Conference Finals in emphatic fashion

Chris Paul reaches first Western Conference Finals in emphatic fashion

The stage is now set for the Warriors to earn their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance. Yet, the Warriors sounded mindful and understanding of the tug-and-pool Curry and the coaching staff faced in accelerating his progress without overwhelming him. Paul's 2017-18 stats lined up nearly exactly with his career stats and he actually took more field goal attempts per game than he did last season.

"What did somebody say after?"

"You've got to play the game now", Green said. "That's all fine and dandy in January. I don't know what it's supposed to feel like, but we've still got a lot of work to do". "Zaza has been our starting center for two years, and in these playoffs, the game has changed so dramatically, and we'll see that obviously with Houston in a big way, because Mike is a guy who kind of started it all". He came off the bench and dropped 28 points, shooting 5-of-10 from the 3-point line.

And right now, the Warriors are on another level defensively - posting the league's best defensive rating in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Throw in long, lanky perimeter defenders such as Mbah a Moute, Tucker and Trevor Ariza to throw at Durant. The Warriors' dominance was on full display during this stretch as they outscored the Pelicans 36-19 in the quarter, and 12-0 on fast-break points.

The Pelicans - once confident they could stick with the Warriors after an impressive Game 3 win - didn't know what hit them.

Houston won two of three meetings against the Warriors during the regular season but was still installed as an underdog at +155, meaning a $100 bet would win $155 should the Rockets win.

It's not supposed to be easy at this stage - especially for the defending champions.

Paul did just that on Tuesday by sending the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals with a 41-point, 7-rebound, 10-assist performance.

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But how this Houston season will be remembered hinges largely on the outcome of this series.

There's a reason it has been billed as the de facto NBA Finals since these teams met for a third time in January. And with five days before Game 1, the anticipation will only grow - as will the opportunities for both sides to get their licks in.

After the Clippers made first-round exits the past two seasons, Paul pushed for a trade to the Rockets to maximize his chances to win a championship. "We're not about to run off talking about how bad we want to play somebody", Green said.

Then again, the way Houston's offense has been going lately it doesn't seem to matter who is batting or where. "We got a little exhausted and a little rattled and we didn't finish the game we wanted to", he added.

"No, they earned the respect this year". "When the letdown happens, how do you respond?"

Durant became irate when Nikola Mirotic made a late, hard bump on a 3-point try with 5:23 left in the first - a play that was reviewed and Mirotic received just a common foul.

That brings us to a question worth asking: What's next for the Utah Jazz?

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