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News » Rockets 95, Jazz 69 2008-04-30

Rockets 95, Jazz 69 2008-04-30

Rockets 95, Jazz 69 2008-04-30
HOUSTON (AP) - It took five playoff games for the Houston Rockets to finally look like the team that won 22 straight games during the regular season.

All they have to do now is play like that in Utah.

Houston routed the Jazz 95-69 at the Toyota Center on Tuesday night to cut their deficit in the best-of-seven series to 3-2 and force Game 6 in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

Led by Tracy McGrady, the Rockets were smooth on offense and overwhelming on defense, a stunning improvement from any of the previous four games in the series.

"Sometimes, the game gets easier for you, for whatever reason," said forward Luis Scola, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds in Game 5. "Everybody was pretty focused on the game plan and everybody was really concentrating."

Houston held the Jazz to their lowest point total of the season and a franchise low for a Rockets' opponent in a playoff game. After struggling to make baskets from anywhere, the Rockets shot 47 percent from the field, went 15-for-19 from the foul line and sank six 3-pointers.

Coach Rick Adelman said the Rockets were more active and, consequently, threw Utah's burly defense off-balance.

"They're very good at their physical style of play," Adelman said. "They make it hard on you to get to the basket unless you move them and we did a better job of moving them and understanding what we have to do."

The Rockets came into the game ranked at or near the bottom in every offensive category among playoff teams. Utah's rugged defense had McGrady frustrated and admitting fatigue. And with him struggling, especially late in games, no other Rocket had consistently picked up the slack.

Backup guard Bobby Jackson scored nine points and reserve forwards Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry combined for 12 points and eight rebounds. The Rockets attacked Utah's defense inside throughout the game for easy baskets.

"We made a more conscious effort to get our big guys some touches," forward Shane Battier said. "I know that Carl and Luis probably don't instill fear in the hearts of the Jazz, in terms of their low-post offense. I thought they gave us a huge boost. It's something we probably need to exploit more in Game 6."

The bench's production also gave McGrady more time to rest. He revealed this week that the soreness in his left knee that sidelined him for 12 games in December and January had flared up again in the playoffs.

He said Wednesday that his knee was swollen, but he looked fresh in the final quarter in Game 5, scoring eight points.

"If we want to win, that's what it's going to take, a great team effort," McGrady said, "our bench coming in and playing the great defense they did and giving us that type of energy and also scoring."

Houston's defense had played well from the start of the series, holding the Jazz to 90 points in the first four games. But Utah made just enough plays at key moments to win Games 1, 2 and 4.

On Tuesday night, the Rockets kept Utah under 20 points in three of four quarters. The Jazz shot 36.5 percent from the field, went 2-of-9 from 3-point range and got outrebounded 46-38.

"They outhustled us everywhere - offensively, defensively, all over the court," said Andrei Kirilenko, who scored five points on 2-for-7 shooting. "We didn't control the game right from the beginning."

The Rockets also took a sizable early lead, something they hadn't done in the series. Playing with a deficit forced the Jazz out of their deliberate offensive style and made them rush shots and commit uncharacteristic turnovers.

Adelman would love to use the same blueprint in Game 6.

"It certainly helps us to get ahead," Adelman said. "When you're behind, they're going to control the tempo. It's important that we control the tempo of the game, especially there. The more you can keep them from getting surges, the more you can keep their crowd from really getting into it, the better you are."

The Rockets had a film session Wednesday, while the Jazz flew back home and took the day off.

Counting the two playoff games, Utah is 38-5 at home this season. The Rockets are drawing confidence from the fact they handed the Jazz two of those losses.

"It's not like we haven't tasted what it feels like to have a celebratory beer after a game in Salt Lake," Battier said, "which you usually do, because it's so hard to get in Salt Lake, so you enjoy that one. Hopefully, we can get that celebratory beer again. That's the one place where, if you win, you feel really good about yourself."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2008


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