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James Harden proved once again that Utah’s vaunted defense was no match for him.

Harden scored 41 points and the Houston Rockets raced out to a huge lead and sailed to a 110-96 win over the Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday.

Houston was up by 25 at halftime behind 34 points combined from Harden and Chris Paul. The Jazz Authentic Martavis Bryant Jersey , who didn’t wrap up their first-round series with Oklahoma City until late Friday night, looked sluggish and struggled to keep pace with the top-seeded Rockets, who hadn’t played since eliminating Minnesota on Wednesday.

The Jazz tied for second in the NBA in the regular season by allowing just 99.8 points, but failed to stop Harden in any of their meetings. Harden, who also had seven assists and eight rebounds, picked up where he left off in the regular season against the Jazz when he averaged 34.3 points, led by a 56-point performance in a 137-110 win in November.

”Their defense is really good – their defense is super,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”But James is James.”

Utah coach Quin Snyder seemed at a loss as to how to limit the MVP front-runner, who had the sixth 40-point playoff game of his career.

”He’s a special player,” he said. ”It’s hard to give credit to all the things that he does. He just impacts the game in so many mays. You have to try to make it harder for him.”

It was Houston’s fourth straight win by 10 or more points this postseason, and the Rockets have won their five games against the Jazz by an average of 16.8 points.

”We’re different,” Harden said. ”We’ve seen so many different defenses throughout this year that have prepared us for this moment.”

The Jazz got 21 points each from rookie Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder while playing without starting point guard Ricky Rubio Barkevious Mingo Color Rush Jersey , who sat with a strained left hamstring. It was a significant blow after he averaged 14 points, 7.3 rebounds and seven assists in the first round.

The Jazz refused to blame their tough game on the fact that they didn’t have much of a break between the first and second round.

”It’s a quick turnaround obviously and there’s some fatigue,” Mitchell said. ”But that wasn’t the reason for the performance.”

The Rockets had 10 3-pointers by halftime, led by three apiece from Harden and P.J. Tucker. They finished with 17, including seven from Harden, which tied his career-high for a playoff game.

The Rockets were up by 18 entering the fourth after Paul hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third. Utah scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to get within 86-75, but Harden made three free throws over the next minute to end the run.

Rudy Gobert, who had 11 points and nine rebounds, had a dunk after that, but a 3-pointer by Harden extended Houston’s lead to 92-77 with about 8 1/2 minutes left.

Mitchell was shaken up when Eric Gordon stepped on his ankle as he drove to the basket with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining. He stayed on the court for a second holding his ankle before hopping up and walking gingerly to the bench. But remained on the bench for just a few seconds before returning and said after the game that he was OK.

Both the Rockets and the fifth-seeded Jazz are in the semifinals for the second straight year. The Rockets, who beat the Timberwolves in five games to advance, lost to the Spurs last season Authentic Jason Sanders Jersey , and Utah was eliminated by Golden State.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Royce O’Neale started in place of Rubio and finished with four points and four assists. … The Jazz haven’t said how long Rubio will be out, but multiple reports have indicated that it could be as many as 10 days. … Joe Ingles had 15 points.

Rockets: Luc Mbah a Moute had three points and three rebounds in his first postseason action this season. He had been out since dislocating his right shoulder on April 10. … Clint Capela had 16 points and 12 rebounds for his third straight double-double. … Paul finished with 17 points, four steals and six assists.

HE SAID IT

Paul on his relationship with Mitchell and any advice he’s given him since the start of the postseason: ”He’s playing great on his own. So I ain’t got nothing for him.”

UP NEXT

The Rockets host Game 2 on Wednesday night before the series shifts to Utah for two games.



Kevin Durant stood calmly near midcourt – and a very familiar spot – as teammates Stephen Curry and Draymond Green screamed at him in celebration.

Another momentous shot for Durant.

And soon, probably another NBA championship.

Durant scored a career playoff-high 43 points, draining a long 3-pointer in the final minute to cap his magnificent performance, and the Warriors beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-102 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night to move within a victory of a sweep, their second straight title and third championship in four years.

The Warriors are on dynasty’s doorstep.

Afterward, the defending champs could be heard loudly celebrating inside their locker room, perhaps a warmup for a bigger party to come.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are in a hole that might as well be 6 feet deep. Teams that have fallen behind 3-0 in the playoffs are 0-131.

It might be time for the guys from Northern California to order some champagne from Napa Valley.

With the Cavs down 103-100, Durant stood defiantly and almost motionless after dropping his 33-footer – just a few feet from where he made one in Game 3 last year – and effectively ended the fourth straight finals matchup between two teams who have gotten to know each other well since 2015.

After Durant scored Authentic Troy Apke Jersey , Curry and Green rushed to his side and the trio walked back toward Golden State’s bench where the other Warriors were hugging and high-fiving.

As always Durant stayed cool.

”I don’t want to downplay anything, but I don’t want to act like this is the end of the road,” Durant said. ”So just get back to work tomorrow and figure out a better game plan.”

Durant said the similarity with last year’s shot – a moment that helped define his first championship – didn’t occur to him.

”No, not at all,” he said. ”I just took the shot.”

There was nothing James or the Cavs could do but think about what might have been after losing two games that were within their reach.

”Tonight will be tough,” said James, who scored 33 and rolled his right ankle in the first half. ”Tomorrow I’ll replay some plays and some moments and things of that nature. When I wake up Friday morning I’ll be locked in on the game plan of what needs to be done to help our team win. That’s just who I am.”

Golden State will now have four chances to wrap up its title starting with Game 4 on Friday night. The Warriors are trying to join a select list of teams to win three championships in four years.

Kevin Love added 20 points for the Cavs, who have fallen into a hole in which no team has ever emerged. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Warriors in the 2016 finals, but that was when Durant was in Oklahoma City and James had a different supporting cast.

The Warriors won despite a 3-of-16 shooting performance from Curry, who did come up big down the stretch as the Cavs were trying to salvage their season.

Now Cleveland could be down to one final game with James, who recorded his 10th triple-double in the finals. The three-time champion can opt out of his $35.6 million contract and test free agency this summer, and it may be time for the 33-year-old to find a team capable of beating the Warriors.

These Cavs can’t figure it out.

Durant Archie Bradley Jersey , who tilted this rivalry toward the West Coast when he signed with the Warriors as a free agent before last season, was brilliant from the start. He helped offset a rough night for Curry, who made a finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2, but was just 1 of 10 from behind the arc and didn’t score his second field goal until there were under three minutes left.

Curry’s scoop shot put the Warriors up 98-97 and defensive specialist Andre Iguodala, who didn’t play in Games 1 or 2 because of a knee injury, came up with a steal under the basket. Curry finally buried a 3 and after James matched him with a long shot, Iguodala drove the lane for a thundering dunk.

Moments later, Durant delivered his dagger to silence Cleveland’s crowd.

”No, that wasn’t the same shot,” James said when asked to compare Durant’s 3 to last year’s. ”The one he made tonight was about four or five feet behind the one he made last year. He’s an assassin. That was one of those assassin plays right there.”

Durant scored 24 in the first half, when the Warriors attempted 13 free throws to zero for the Cavs, a disparity that induced further wrath on the officials from Cleveland fans still stinging from the now infamous reversed call in Game 1.

James arrived at 6 p.m. dressed more casually – camouflage pants Cheap Sam Hubbard Jersey , purple hoodie, ”Billionaire Boys Club” baseball cap – than on the road where he and the Cavs have been wearing suits during the postseason.

Everything is more relaxed and familiar at home for James and his teammates, who were counting on a return to their own noisy building, where they play better and shoot better, to get them back into the series.

The Warriors had other plans.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Green passed Wilt Chamberlain (922) for the most rebounds in Warriors playoff history. … Klay Thompson played in his NBA-high 390th game over the last four seasons. Green is second with 387, while James is third at 381. … Curry has made a 3-pointer in 89 consecutive playoff games, and a record 43 on the road.

Cavaliers: Kyle Korver continued to struggle. He missed all four shots and is now 8 of 29 dating to Game 1 of last year’s Finals. … James (238) broke a tie with Kareem Abdul-Jab.
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