Rockets lead by as many as 19 in Game 4 win at Utah


Everyone knows about the Houston Rockets’ commitment to math: prioritizing layups, free throws and 3-pointers over any other shot, specifically those in the midrange. And after Game 3 against the Utah Jazz on Friday, James Harden and Chris Paul sat by each other and were asked about the fact the Rockets uncharacteristically took 28 from midrange.

“Probably about 20 of them were from me,” Paul nike nfl jerseys from china

All season, Paul has been self-aware and often self-deprecating about one of the strengths of his game not exactly fitting with his new team’s core philosophy.

Harden interjected: “As you should,” clearly not joking at all. He had a point to make. “That’s a layup for him.”

And in Game 4, as the Jazz have progressively tried to scout and eliminate Houston’s drive-and-kick actions, with the Rockets shooting it poorly (10-of-38 from 3, 26.3 percent), it was Paul’s midrange proficiency that paid off. With 27 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Houston’s 100-87 Game 4 win to take a 3-1 series lead, Paul hit the Jazz with inefficient dagger after inefficient dagger. Analytics be damned; sometimes you have to let a master of the midrange work his craft.94

“Every rule has an exception,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said on Friday. “When you’re that good at something, even the number guys are like, ‘Yeah, that works’ because the numbers are right. If you’re just normal, that wouldn’t work. That’s one of the reasons I’m sure the organization got Chris — for a lot of different reasons, but that’s definitely a bonus.”

There were a lot of questions in the preseason about how Paul would fit next to Harden, whether two players so ball-dominant could coexist. D’Antoni solved much of that by cleverly splitting their playing time with staggered rotations, but their success together, particularly in Game 4, came because they’re just, like, really stinking good.

“Chris is shooting those shots like layups,” Harden said after Game 4, reiterating his point. “So he’s gonna do it, he’s gonna shoot ’em 20, 40 times, as many as he has to. He was extremely aggressive tonight, which we need from him.”nfl cheap nike jerseys

D’Antoni said before the game he never really doubted Paul and Harden could work together, noting his belief stemmed from the fact that it was the two of them who decided to play together. The decision was made by them to make it work, and it came before they even played a game together. And with the way Harden talked after Game 3, it was as if he was making sure Paul understood what the Rockets still need from him. Offense can be difficult to execute in the slog of a playoff series; sometimes what you need is just someone who can get a bucket.