Williams, Jazz use third-quarter run to tie series vs. RocketsApr 29, 2007 - 7:27 AM SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ticker) -- Deron Williams took things into his own hands.
Williams had 25 points and seven assists as the Utah Jazz used a huge third quarter outburst for a 98-85 triumph over the Houston Rockets to even their Western Conference first-round playoff series at two games apiece.
Matt Harpring scored 17 points and Carlos Boozer collected 15 and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who improved to 10-5 at home all-time in the postseason against the Rockets.
Taken third overall in the 2005 draft, Williams entered averaging 13.6 points through the first three games of the series. But on Saturday, the 6-3 guard took his performance to another level and went into offensive attack mode.
"I was a little tentative the first two games," Williams said. "I was going to the basket, trying to get fouled, try to suck the defense in and kick out. I think I did a better job of putting a lot of pressure on their big men."
In the opening 20 minutes, Williams carried the load for coach Jerry Sloan, netting 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor to help the Jazz grab a 50-45 lead at halftime.
Williams continued to pour it on in the third quarter, scoring seven points during a 13-4 surge that was capped by his three-point play as the Jazz opened a 63-49 bulge with 7:39 remaining.
"Those first two games, we lost the games in the third quarter," Williams said. "We wanted to come out these last two games and have strong second halfs and I think we've done that. There was no let-up in us. We looked up and we had them down 14, 15, and we just kept going."
The Jazz won Game Three primarily on the strength of their defense, limiting the Rockets to just 67 points and holding the Houston bench scoreless. But Saturday, Utah's offense was able to open up for the first time in this series.
"I think a lot of it was our defense," Williams said. "We were able to get some turnovers and get some fast breaks, which we hadn't really done in our first couple games. It opened up a lot of things for us. Some guys got confidence in their shots."
Utah put an exclamation mark on the period when Derek Fisher stole a pass and fed Gordan Giricek for a 3-pointer from the left wing as the buzzer sounded, extending the lead to 83-62.
"I did just the small part," said Giricek, who scored nine points. "Fish did a great job intercepting the ball and passing the ball, I was wide open. I did the easy job."
The Jazz shot 61 percent (11-of-18) from the field and outscored Houston, 33-17, in the period and never looked back thereafter.
"They're doing a great job of putting the pressure on us, taking us out of our comfort zone on the offensive end, extending us out on the post, making post entries tough," Houston All-Star Tracy McGrady said. "They're playing harder than us."
Once again, the Jazz bench was effective, contributing 33 points for the second game.
Houston's 1-2 punch of McGrady and Yao Ming were held in check, combining for 38 points. The tandem was averaging over 53.0 points in the first three matchups.
"I think we just did a great job helping on (McGrady)," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "I still think he's one of the dominant players in the league. But we really concentrate on him."
One of the primary reasons for Yao's decreased offensive production has been the defensive performance of Utah center Mehmet Okur, who blocked four shots in the Game Three victory and consistently pushed Yao away from the basket.
Okur finally came alive, collecting 16 points and six boards. A 6-11 center from Turkey, Okur shot just 17 percent (6-of-35) in the first three games.
"I felt better, especially on the offensive end," Okur said. "Still I'm trying to play good defense on Yao, and I think we did a pretty good job on the defensive end. It was a good win." "Memo's played his heart out, especially defensively, the whole series," Williams said. "I think it took a little bit away from his legs and his shot, because he's been a little short. We knew he was going to be fine. He said he felt good, felt like it was coming back to him."
While Utah's defense kept McGrady from penetrating for most of the night - limiting him to pull-up jumpers that ultimately led to a 6-of-18 performance - Okur once again was keeping Yao in check.
UTAH 98 FINAL
Apr 29 1:01 AM
UTAH 83 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 29 12:28 AM
UTAH 50 HALFTIME
Apr 28 11:40 PM
UTAH 19 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 28 11:06 PM
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