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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports activities’ Sam Amick on how the Warriors ruled the Pelicans and the Rockets treated the Jazz to take Three-1 sequence leads and transfer one win from the Western Convention finals.
USA TODAY Sports activities

SALT LAKE CITY – The hills that encompass this town are a sight to behold.

It’s a hiker’s playground in those portions, the type of panorama that leaves locals and guests alike taking part in the pains of game. However because the Utah Jazz realized another time in Recreation four of those Western Convention semifinals, the place the Houston Rockets took a 3-1 series lead with a 100-87 win on Sunday, uphill climbs aren’t quite as enjoyable in the NBA playoffs.

If Utah was ever going to upset the top-seeded Rockets, to continue this surprise story line in which they morphed from a lottery-bound team in mid-January to a Western Conference contender a few months later, they were going to have to play to near perfection to overcome the enormous talent gap between these two teams.

Instead, with Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio still out with a hamstring injury and Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul taking their team one step closer to the conference finals, the Jazz are on the verge of falling headlong into that canyon.

Here’s why …

CHRIS PAUL’S CURSE

Just in case anyone wondered about Paul’s view on 3-1 leads, he offered quite the reminder to TNT’s Kristen Ledlow in his postgame interview.

“I’ve been here before 3-1, and (expletive) went bad real quick,” Paul, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Sunday, said. “It is what it is. I want to get home, enjoy my family, you know what I mean? A good birthday gift. I’ll take it.”

The nightmare to which Paul is referring, of course, is the Western Conference semifinals in 2015. His Clippers were up 3-1 on Harden’s Rockets, only to cough up the final three games in the most painful of ways. At the time, they were the ninth team in the NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in a seven-game series.

While Paul is surely destined for the Hall of Fame someday, his inability to reach the conference finals remains a major blemish on his resume. But he played like someone who is determined to change his legacy in Game 4, finishing with 27 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, just one turnover and a plus-10 rating.

Rockets ahead Luc Mbah a Moute, who signed with the Clippers in the summertime that adopted their cave in, is aware of in addition to someone how that sequence caught with Paul.

“After I got here at the workforce, there used to be nonetheless guys speaking about it,” Mbah a Moute instructed USA TODAY Sports activities. “It used to be nonetheless very bright, for everyone. You simply felt all that onerous paintings, and being up Three-1, after which shedding, like I mentioned it’s one thing guys stay to their middle.

“That’s an revel in the place you’re so shut, and a large number of the ones guys by no means were given again to that degree. You’re so with regards to attending to the convention finals, and also you simply don’t do what you’re meant to do. It used to be introduced up all the way through the process the season, by way of him, by way of (then-Clippers ahead) Blake (Griffin), (then-Clippers guard) Jamal (Crawford), a pair guys at the workforce.”

ROCKETS WINNING BIG-MAN BATTLE

Don’t let the Jazz gamers idiot you: Rockets middle Clint Capela has been a serious problem on this sequence.

When Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell used to be requested at the postgame podium about Capela’s affect, he driven again in opposition to the concept that the 23-year-old used to be a “problem,” as he were requested. This occurs each so regularly in those kinds of settings, when a participant like Mitchell simply so occurs to be sitting subsequent to the teammate who’s scuffling with the participant being mentioned. However the numbers don’t lie.

  • Capela’s averages thru 4 video games: 15 issues, 11.five rebounds, Three.Three blocks.
  • Jazz middle Rudy Gobert’s: 12.Three issues, 10.five rebounds, two blocks.

Capela used to be a pressure in Recreation four, recording six blocks, 12 issues, 15 rebounds and completing with a plus-Three ranking. Gobert, whose function within the sequence become such a lot more difficult when Rubio went down in Recreation 6 of the primary spherical in opposition to Oklahoma Town, had 11 issues, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and a minus-27 ranking.

A BRUTAL JAZZ BLOW

The perception of Dante Exum being a key contributor for a Jazz playoff workforce used to be unthinkable now not too way back.

Even ahead of the fourth-year guard separated his left shoulder again on Oct. 6 and ignored the following 5 months, he had performed in simply 148 of a conceivable 246 regular-season video games as a result of damage. However since returning on March 15, the 22-year-old who will probably be a limited unfastened agent this summer season has temporarily develop into an intriguing a part of Utah’s long run.

He did a forged process protecting Harden in Recreation Three, all whilst appearing this type of offensive flashes that forced the Jazz to take him 5th total in 2014. He used to be on his technique to an excellent higher efficiency in Recreation four, however he used to be hamstrung early – first figuratively, then actually.

Exum used to be whistled for 3 first-quarter fouls, with the final two (on a Harden pressure and a Harden three-point strive) questionable sufficient that the soldout Jazz crowd used to be incensed.

Then halfway throughout the 3rd quarter, Exum suffered a hamstring damage and didn’t go back. Mitchell, who completed with 25 issues however ignored 16 of his 24 photographs and had extra turnovers (3) than assists (two), used to be left to fend for himself with any other guard down.

Practice USA TODAY Sports activities’ Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick

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