Obviously, they’ve got a great new future with Donovan and some great pieces to go around them, and obviously coach (Quin) Snyder is a really good coach, so keep building and we’ll see what happens. —Houston Rockets guard James Harden
HOUSTON — With confetti raining down in the Toyota Center Tuesday, an injured Donovan Mitchell hugged his mentor Chris Paul on the hardwood.
After an intense five-game Western Conference semifinals series, Mitchell and the Utah Jazz certainly earned the respect of the Houston Rockets as they advance to the next round.
Houston held on to beat the Jazz 112-102 behind 41 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds from Paul with no turnovers. MVP front-runner James Harden contributed 18 points on 7-for-22 shooting while competing under the weather, but didn’t hesitate to praise the Jazz team, viewed by many as underdogs all year long.
“Unbelievable,” Harden said of Utah. “Especially when nobody expected them to be in the situation they’re in right now. The sky is the limit for them.
“Obviously, they’ve got a great new future with Donovan and some great pieces to go around them, and obviously coach (Quin) Snyder is a really good coach, so keep building and we’ll see what happens.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni expressed similar sentiments when describing the Jazz team. Even after falling behind by 11 in the third, Mitchell helped dig the team out of the hole by singlehandedly outscoring the Rockets 22-21 in the period. The never-say-die mentality certainly stuck with the winners.
“Utah played really, really good,” D’Antoni said. “Quin (Snyder) did a fantastic job on what he did, (Donovan) Mitchell’s unbelievable. We had them down a couple times and they kept coming back and they kept playing. Just a bunch of smart, hard-playing guys. Got a lot of respect on this side for them.”
GIVING BACK: Rudy Gobert’s Rudy’s Kids Foundation announced ahead of Game 5 that the organization would donate $1,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston for all shots blocked by the Defensive Player of the Year front-runner. Gobert ended with five swats.
BIRTHDAY SEASON: In a four-day span, four members of the Houston Rockets have celebrated birthdays. P.J. Tucker turned 33 on May 5, then Chris Paul and Ryan Anderson celebrated birthdays No. 33 and 30 on May 6 and now head coach Mike D’Antoni brings in his 67th birthday on May 8. All of them share the same Taurus zodiac sign, and D’Antoni called Tuesday’s 112-102 close-out victory against Utah one of his best presents.
“Oh yeah, without a doubt, especially at this age,” D’Antoni said, laughing.