Playoff redemption has been a long time coming for Chris Paul, for years his struggle to get beyond the second round have been well chronicled over the years, the second half of game four was a huge moment for CP. The Warriors had just come off an eruption from Steph Curry in the third quarter again, Shaun Livingston capped off a 27-8 dunk with a poster on Clint Capela early in the fourth, Oracle was rocking, and the Rockets were down 12 points. It looked like the Rockets were about to get run over, until Paul decided he was going to take over.
At the end of the third, it looked like the Rockets were going to go down 1-3 in the series with game five seeming more like a formality, James Harden who was amazing in the first half had all but disappeared in the second half going 3-9 from the field and missing all six three-point attempts. It was Paul who stepped up who in the fourth got teammates involved while scoring 8 of his 27 points. Paul was not going to be denied in this game.
The plays Paul made in the second half are all the reasons why the Rockets acquired him last summer when Harden began to struggle he rolled. It started when he drove baseline and somehow inexplicably squeezed a bounce pass to Capela between two Warriors for the layup.
Then while the Warriors are coming back, Paul gets Looney switched onto him, as he drove he got his body into Looney’s that created just enough room for him to get his floater off.
This next shot comes right after the Livingston punctuation to the Warriors run, Paul wasn’t fazed at all. Jordan Bell switches onto him and plays good defense but Paul was locked in and knocks down the jumper despite the good contest.
Now the Warriors lead is down to seven when Paul grabs a rebound and begins to push the pace. As he pushes the ball up, Klay Thompson picked up and Paul drove down the lane, stopped on a dime and pulled up for a jumper.
He followed that up by drilling a three despite great defense from Thompson cutting the lead to two.
The Warriors begin to adjust to their defensive scheme on Paul, which opened up the door for him to create for his teammate. It appears he is trapped in the corner and he threw a curveball that bounced inbounds and right to Trevor Ariza, who pump fakes a defender before knocking down a three to give the Rockets a lead.
On the following play, the Rockets ISO’ed Harden and as he drove he kicked the ball out to Ariza who swung the ball to Paul. Now the Paul is able to attack the Warriors while they are scrambling to rotate to him, he drove to the nail on the free throw line, two Warriors jump to Harden which opened up a cutting lane for Ariza and CP found him on the cut.
Then down the stretch, as the Rockets were up two, Paul came off a pick-and-roll and both Warriors’ defenders go with him and found a popping Eric Gordon who knocks down the three.
The Rockets ended the game on a 25-10 run that was spearheaded by Paul in his first conference finals. This game could have easily gone another quickly, the Warriors threw a haymaker in the third, Harden struggled in the second half, it looked as if they were about to crumble. Chris Paul stepped up and carried his team in a way that he has been often criticized for failing to do so in the past, and evened the series.
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- Photo Credit: Michael Ciaglo, Houston Chronicle
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