For the top-seeded Rockets Mike White Color Rush Jersey , it simply moved them a little closer toward their goal of bringing the franchise its first title in more than two decades.
”This was a pretty good step for us, a step in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go,” James Harden said. ”We (don’t) have this team just to win one playoff series.”
From the moment Chris Paul joined the Rockets in a blockbuster trade from the Los Angeles Clippers last summer, the Rockets have talked incessantly about their desire and belief that the pairing of the two star point guards could propel this already good team into contender status.
A 65-win regular season led by Harden’s MVP-caliber play and Paul’s work in a top supporting role gave the Rockets the NBA’s best record for the first time in franchise history and added to the belief that this could be the year they win it all.
Despite not playing their best at times, the Rockets easily handled the eighth-seeded Wolves, turning in three blowout wins in the 4-1 series triumph, capped by Wednesday’s night 122-104 victory.
”We’ll continue to get better, work on some things, figure out who we play and take it from there DJ Moore Color Rush Jersey ,” Harden said.
They move on to the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight season and look to return to the conference finals for the first time since losing to the Golden State Warriors in 2015.
But first they’ll get a few days to rest as they await the winner of the series between the Thunder and Jazz. Utah leads 3-2 after Oklahoma City overcame a 25-point second-half deficit to avoid elimination Wednesday night.
Coach Mike D’Antoni said it’s difficult to do too much preparation before they know who they’ll face.
”We’ll watch it. Get some popcorn and enjoy the NBA like everybody else does then we’ll break it down,” he said. ”We’ll have plenty of time to prepare and get in there and do what we do.”
While the Rockets have their eyes on winning their first title since taking back to back trophies in 1994-95, the next round will be a benchmark of sorts for Paul considering his disappointing playoff history.
The nine-time All-Star has faced criticism after making nine previous playoff trips without advancing past the second round. The worst of those flops came in 2015 against Houston, when Paul and the Clippers had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals. They got blown out in Game 5 and squandered a 19-point second-half lead in Los Angeles in Game 6 before falling in Game 7 at Houston.
He bristles when the subject is brought up by reporters, but both Harden and Trevor Ariza said Paul discussed that series this week as a cautionary tale when Houston took a 3-1 lead over Minnesota.
Paul carried the Rockets with a 27-point performance in a Game 2 win against Minnesota and scored 25 points in Game 4 when he and Harden fueled a 50-point third quarter that allowed the Rockets to come back to Houston a win away from wrapping up the series.
While his scoring helped Houston through this series, perhaps more important to Houston’s success was what he did to facilitate scoring by others like Clint Capela, who led Houston with 26 points on Wednesday night. Paul had a tough time in the first game of the series when he tied a season-high with six turnovers. In the next four games he piled up 29 assists with just three turnovers to help Houston advance.
Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau marveled at how difficult it is to deal with both Harden and Paul after the pair combined for 21 assists on Wednesday night.
”They can hurt you a lot of different ways,” he said. ”They hurt us with the pass tonight. They’re not worried about their shots. They’re worried about the team getting good shots.”
While Houston’s offensive prowess was evident throughout the year, the Rockets hope that their work on defense against Minnesota shows that they’re solid on that side of the ball, too.
”We’ve been saying it all season long and in order for us to get where we want to go defense is going to have to be our backbone Clint Frazier New York Yankees Jersey ,” Harden said. ”We’re going to have to get stops.”
Blake Snell took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Kevin Kiermaier hit a grand slam and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Washington Nationals 11-0 on Monday night.
Wilson Ramos homered twice and rookie Jake Bauers had four hits in the Rays’ fourth straight win.
Snell (10-4) walked Trea Turner and Bryce Harper to open the game before retiring 18 straight, striking out five straight at one point. Anthony Rendon doubled leading off the seventh for the first of Washington’s two hits.
Kiermaier’s first home run of the season came during a six-run second inning against Gio Gonzalez (6-5).
It was the eighth loss in 11 games for the Nationals.
YANKEES 4, PHILLIES 2
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jonathan Loaisiga took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Aaron Judge ripped his 20th homer and the Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak.
Loaisiga (2-0) didn’t allow a hit until Jorge Alfaro lined a single to right leading off the sixth. He struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings in his third start after jumping from Double-A to the majors.
Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez (5-8) allowed two runs and three hits in six innings.
ATHLETICS 5, TIGERS 4
DETROIT (AP) – Jed Lowrie hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the top of the ninth inning to lift Oakland over Detroit on a historic day for Edwin Jackson.
Jackson allowed a run and six hits in six innings in his first appearance for the A’s, tying a record by playing for his 13th major league team. Called up from Triple-A, the 34-year-old righty matched the mark for most clubs set by former reliever Octavio Dotel.
The A’s trailed 4-1 after Nicholas Castellanos hit a three-run homer in the seventh, but Oakland scored three in the eighth off Joe Jimenez. Then Lowrie connected for his 12th homer, barely fair down the line in right field off Shane Greene (2-4).
Lou Trivino (6-1) got the win in relief Tanner Lee Color Rush Jersey , and Blake Treinen pitched the ninth for his 18th save. The A’s have won seven of nine.
BLUE JAYS 6, ASTROS 3
HOUSTON (AP) – Toronto’s Curtis Granderson homered in consecutive at-bats against Justin Verlander, and Randal Grichuk added a two-run shot and a huge defensive play.
Granderson’s leadoff shot in the fifth tied it at 3. He connected again with two out in the seventh, belting an opposite-field drive off Verlander (9-3).
Grichuk’s soaring home run came against Will Harris and made it 6-3 with two out in the eighth.
Grichuk then reached over the short wall in right field to rob George Springer of a homer with two on and no outs in the ninth.
Toronto’s J.A. Happ (10-3) got his sixth straight win. Seung-hwan Oh worked the ninth for his second save.
RANGERS 7, PADRES 4
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Shin-Soo Choo extended his career-best on-base streak to 38 games with three hits, including the tiebreaking RBI single in Texas’ strange five-run outburst.
Robinson Chirinos had two hits and two RBIs for Texas, which has won eight of its last nine games. Tony Barnette (2-0) got the win, and Keone Kela worked the ninth for his 19th save in 19 chances.
All five Rangers runs in the decisive sixth inning came after it appeared that Chirinos had struck out for the second out with two runners on base. It looked as if Austin Hedges had the ball secured in his mitt that kicked up the dirt when he reached down.
Umpire Tony Randazzo initially indicated Chirinos was out. But that was changed to a foul ball after a discussion among all four umpires, and Chirinos lined an RBI single on the next pitch by Craig Stammen (4-1).
MARINERS 5 James Daniels Color Rush Jersey , ORIOLES 3
BALTIMORE (AP) – Dee Gordon’s slick seventh-inning bunt was the lone hit in a two-run uprising that put Seattle ahead for good, and the Mariners beat the Orioles for just their second win in eight games.
Denard Span homered for the Mariners, who benefited from 10 walks and a pivotal wild pitch to get back on track.
Felix Hernandez (7-6) allowed three runs on four hits over six innings, and Edwin Diaz worked the ninth for his major league-leading 28th save.
Jonathan Schoop homered and had two RBIs for the Orioles. Miguel Castro (2-3) got the loss.
MARLINS 9, DIAMONDBACKS 5
MIAMI (AP) – Brian Anderson and Cameron Maybin each drove in two runs, helping Miami spoil Shelby Miller’s return to the mound after missing over a year for Tommy John surgery.
Dan Straily (3-3) allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings for the Marlins, who have won three in a row. Justin Bour hit his 13th homer.
Miller (0-1) made his first start since April 23, 2017. He gave up six hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings.
PIRATES 6, METS 4
NEW YORK (AP) – Josh Bell hit a two-run homer, Gregory Polanco also went deep and the Pirates took advantage of some dreadful defense by the Mets to snap a five-game losing streak.
In a series opener between tumbling teams Riley Sutter Capitals Jersey , Pittsburgh built a five-run lead and held on to hand the Mets their seventh straight defeat before a mostly quiet crowd of 22,135. New York is 6-24 in its last 30 games.
Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon (5-6) allowed two runs in six-plus innings. Felipe Vazquez struck out the side for his 15th save.
Two errors in the first three innings by rookie third baseman Luis Guillorme – touted as a slick fielder – led directly to a pair of unearned runs against Mets starter Seth Lugo (2-3).
ROYALS 2, ANGELS 0
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Brad Keller pitched seven innings of two-hit ball, helping the Royals beat the Angels in the makeup of a game that was frozen out in April.<P.< div>