NBA playoffs 2017: Rockets advance while Spurs, Jazz take 3-2 leads

Let's take a look at what happened in Tuesday night's NBA playoff games, including the best highlights, turning points and X-factors.

Russell Westbrook did not go gentle into that good night, and try as he might to rage against the dying of the light, the Rockets took flight and ended his fight.

Now that we've tipped our caps to Dylan Thomas, let's get back to the NBA playoffs. James Harden and the Rockets kicked off Tuesday night's slate of games by eliminating the Thunder in a 105-99 win. (Thanks to Russ for making the 2016-17 season a ton of fun.) As for the other series, the Spurs and Jazz both gained 3-2 leads in key Game 5 matchups. The Jazz will travel back home to Utah for Game 6 while the Spurs head to Memphis in the hopes of closing things out and meeting Houston in the second round.

MORE: NBA playoff scores | Wednesday's schedule

Let's take a look at what happened in each playoff game, along with the turning points and X-factors that helped shape the final scores.

NBA playoffs: Scores, highlights

Rockets 105, Thunder 99

What happened: Westbrook found out what we already knew: You can't do it on your own. The MVP candidate completed his amazing season with another absurd line of 47 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. However, Westbrook only shot 15 of 34, including 5 of 18 from 3-point range. The Rockets made him work for everything, especially the defensive pitbull known as Patrick Beverley. James Harden had 34 points on an off shooting night, but the rest of the roster picked up the slack. Did Westbrook's teammates fail him? Did Westbrook fail to trust his teammates? Did Westbrook shoulder too much of the load? It was likely a combination of all three.

Turning point: At the end of the third quarter, the Thunder held a 77-72 lead. Coach Billy Donovan tried to give Westbrook, who played 42 of a possible 48 minutes, a short break before subbing him back in for the rest of the game. Donovan used a five-man lineup of Oladipo-Abrines-McDermott-Grant-Gibson. Less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, the Rockets were ahead 86-81. Yep, just like that.

OKC was outscored 27-9 in the six minutes Westbrook sat in Game 5. For the entire series, the Thunder finished plus-15 with Westbrook on the floor and minus-58 when he sat. Yes, the offense dropped significantly without a singular driving force like Westbrook available, but as ESPN's Tom Haberstroh pointed out prior to Game 5, the defense was even worse. Donovan didn't stagger Steven Adams' minutes and separate him from Westbrook this series, and the Thunder's defensive efficiency plummeted as a result.

MORE: War of words between Westbrook and Beverley rages on

X-factor: Lou Williams is still out here getting buckets. The veteran shooting guard poured in 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 12 points in the fourth quarter. He played an instrumental role in that 14-4 run mentioned above. He penetrated into the paint, got to the free-throw line and hit key outside shots. To put it simply, good things happened when Williams was on the floor and touched the ball.

Highlight you need to see: Eric Gordon dropped a hammer dunk right on Jerami Grant's dome.


Next game: Rockets advance to play winner of Spurs-Grizzlies series

Spurs 116, Grizzlies 103

What happened: The Spurs found their "Spursiness" again. Kawhi Leonard had another standard game of hyper-efficient scoring, putting up 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting after largely existing as a facilitator in the first half while facing constant double-teams. But it wasn't just the Kawhi-bot that did the heavy lifting. San Antonio got 46 points from its bench (compared to 30 points for the Grizzlies) only a game after non-starters provided a total of 17 points. Manu Ginobili scored his first points of the entire series, finishing with 10 in 18 strong minutes. Give credit to Mike Conley for trying to will the Grizzlies back into the game, but the Spurs were firing on all cylinders.

Turning point: This one went down in the books as a double-digit win for the Spurs, but with less than five minutes to go, it was a five-point game. Conley had scored 17 points in the third quarter to set up a potential comeback, but from 4:50 to 2:12 in the fourth, the Spurs shut the door with a 12-0 run. Gregg Popovich and David Fizdale both pulled the starters at that point as San Antonio cruised to the final buzzer. What set off this run? How about a certain Australian guard?

MORE: Popovich reportedly left massive tip at Memphis restaurant

X-factor: Patty Mills scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, all of them 3-pointers coming off assists from Tony Parker. The Parker-Mills backcourt worked well in the final frame. Parker attacked and drew help defenders while Mills picked his spots along the 3-point line and let it fly with no second thought. The Spurs need Mills to stay aggressive, as they were 36-2 in the regular season when he scored at least 10 points.

Highlight you need to see: Ginobili is nearly 40 years old and still fooling defenders with the Eurostep.


Next game: Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Jazz 96, Clippers 92

What happened: An even battle between the Western Conference's four and five seeds went down to the wire, but the Jazz ultimately made the clutch plays to capture a 3-2 lead in the series. Gordon Hayward looked 100 percent after a rough bout with food poisoning forced him off the floor in Game 4. The former Butler star hit his first three shots of Game 5, all 3-pointers, and finished with 27 points in 41 minutes. Rudy Gobert's presence was also felt in only his second game of the series. Gobert filled up the box score with 11 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and two blocks.

Both teams struggled offensively, but for different reasons. The Jazz created good scoring chances yet couldn't get open shots to fall consistently. The Clippers looked completely out of sync at times and relied far too much on isolations and contested jumpers. You could even hear Doc Rivers on the game broadcast imploring his guards to drive to put stress on the defense. Chris Paul and J.J. Redick played well, but there wasn't much else to be excited about if you're a Clippers fan.

Turning point: This may not be viewed as a turning point so much as a missed opportunity. In the third quarter, the offense really slowed down. Both teams went more than two and a half consecutive minutes without a point, and the Clippers only made one field goal in the final 7:50 of the quarter. The Jazz won the third 18-15. Had the Clippers merely been competent offensively, they would have had a real shot at taking a lead into the fourth. As it stands, LA is in survival mode.

MORE: Paul is stunned by dumb question after Game 5 loss

X-factor: This spot should just be reserved for Joe Johnson. The Clipper killer is now averaging 18.2 points in the first round on 53.4 percent shooting (36.4 percent from 3). Johnson drained a huge 3-pointer with less than three minutes to go, then hit a fadeaway jumper with 19.2 seconds left to give the Jazz a two-possession lead. Johnson is 8 of 10 from the field in clutch situations this postseason (game within five points, less than five minutes in the fourth quarter or overtime). When the game gets close, give Joe the ball, and get out of the way.

Highlight you need to see: Hayward isn't worried about time. He's got this.


"Iso Joe" is a bad, bad man.


Next game: Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

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