SALT LAKE CITY — Even on his 33rd birthday Sunday, Houston Rockets floor general Chris Paul played Game 4 with a scowl on his face.
With a chance to take a 3-1 edge in the Western Conference semifinals series on the road, Paul refused to let up on the Utah Jazz.
In front of a sellout crowd at Vivint Arena, Paul put up a game-high 27 points with 12 rebounds and six assists to help the Rockets win, 100-87.
“I’m always like that,” Paul described his temperament. “Ain’t no additional pressure. We’re just taking it one game at a time.
“It showed a lot of grit for us to come in here and win two games, but we still got a lot of work to do, and that’s why we’re not relaxing and we’re going to keep going,” he added.
Although Paul has been widely respected as one of the league’s top floor generals since he entered the league in 2005 out of Wake Forest, the playoffs have haunted him throughout his career.
Paul has never made it past the second round in his 13-year career and was once up 3-1 as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers three years ago against the Rockets before losing in seven games. His 85 postseason games are the most in league history by an individual without a conference finals appearance.
“I don’t know. James (Harden) was fouling, they was cheating,” Paul recalled, jokingly. “I don’t remember. I’ve got that out of my brain. That’s out.”
Harden averaged 25.4 points, 8.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds in that 2015 Western Conference semifinals series versus the Clippers, but is refusing to let that past experience creep into his teammate’s mind. At this current time, with so much at stake, none of that matters.
“He not even thinking about that honestly,” Harden interrupted Paul during the postgame press conference. “We’ve got a game on Tuesday and we’re going to do whatever it takes to close it out.
“I don’t know what he’s thinking,” Harden continued. “I know he not thinking that, but as a team, we just fight for each other, we go out there, play our butt off and win the game.”
Paul’s latest performance in Salt Lake City was his first double-double of this year’s postseason. He’s averaging 19.7 points, 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds on 47.0 percent shooting through nine playoff games as the Rockets have only lost twice in two rounds.
With their first real legitimate shot of winning an NBA title, Paul and Harden feel a sense of urgency to close this thing out. Game 5 is set for Tuesday at the Toyota Center where the Jazz last upset them in Game 2. The guys haven’t forgotten that.
“We’re not satisfied with just being up 3-1,” Harden said. “Start of training camp, the beginning of the regular season and this entire regular season, we didn’t come this far just to be up 3-1 in the semifinals. We’ve got a long way to go. Good road win for us, though.”
SURPRISE VISITOR: Former NBA Commissioner David Stern visited Vivint Arena for Game 4 of the Rockets-Jazz series. Stern served in his role from 1984-2014 as the league’s longest-tenured commissioner. He widely increased the NBA’s popularity. Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon was also in attendance for the contest.
MISTAKEN IDENTITY: C.J. Paul, Chris Paul’s older brother, was escorted out of Vivint Arena midway through the third quarter by the security staff as a form of mistaken identity. C.J. was mistaken for an unruly fan by the officials but was later allowed to return to his seat. Chris witnessed the chain of events, even during competition, but said “that’s out.”
“Don’t put him out,” Chris said.