May 7 (UPI) — Dante Exum was whistled for a foul after being hit in the face by James Harden in Game 4 of the Utah Jazz’s Western Conference bout against the Houston Rockets.
The peculiar infraction occurred with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter of the Rockets’ 100-87 win Sunday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.
The Rockets had a 19-17 lead when Harden picked up his dribble on a drive to the basket. Harden stepped into the paint and lifted the ball up, hitting Exum directly in the face. Exum crashed to the ground, but was called for his second personal foul of the contest.
Harden made both of his free-throw attempts, pushing the Rockets’ early lead to four points.
Exum scored nine points and had an assist in 10 minutes of action. Superstar rookie Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 25 points. He also had nine rebounds, four steals and two assists before fouling out. Mitchell shot 8-of-24 from the floor in the loss.
Rockets point guard Chris Paul led all scorers with 27 points. He also had 12 rebounds and six assists. Harden had 24 points, four rebounds, four steals, three assists and eight turnovers in the win.
“We’re not satisfied just being up 3-1,” Harden told reporters. “This entire regular season. We didn’t come this far just to be up 3-1 in the semifinals. So we got a long way to go. Good road win for us though.”
Game 5 between the Rockets and Jazz tips off at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Toyota Center in Houston.