for this game

Korver, Kirilenko help Jazz edge Rockets

Jan 28, 2008 - 3:53 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) - The Houston Rockets found out Sunday night just how much they depend on Yao Ming.

With Yao missing his first contest this season, Kyle Korver scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and the Utah Jazz posted their fourth straight victory, a 97-89 triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams also scored 17 points apiece and made some critical plays down the stretch for the Jazz, who have won eight of their last nine games.

"I was able to get some open looks," said Korver, who was acquired from Philadelphia a month ago. "The other team has to focus so much on Carlos (Boozer) and Deron, they leave me a little more open."

Korver found himself wide open in the right corner for back-to-back 3-pointers that turned a five-point lead into a 88-77 bulge with 2:44 to play.

"He's a perfect fit for us, because we have guys who can penetrate and kick it out to him," Boozer said. "He's the one who broke the game open."

Going from a losing situation in Philadelphia to a playoff type team in Utah worked wonders for Korver.

"They can't really focus on me (here)," he said. "(In Philadelphia) I felt like I had to play a perfect game for us to win. Here we have more weapons."

"That's been what's helped us the last few weeks," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Kyle can really shoot the ball and we're able to spread the court."

Williams, of course, is one of the Jazz who draws plenty of attention.

Houston tied the game at 74-74 for the final time on Luis Scola's free throws with 6:22 to go. The 6-9 Scola, starting in place of Yao, collected 18 points and six rebounds.

"I was happy (to start), but I wish that Yao would have played," Scola said.

Williams assisted on back-to-back baskets by Kirilenko, then hit a buzzer-beating fallaway from the right baseline to give the Jazz an 82-76 advantage with 3:54 remaining.

"I saw the (shot) clock was at four," Williams said. "I had to put it up and I got a good look at it."

Yao sat out the game because of an upper respiratory infection and without the Chinese center, the Rockets offense struggled in this one, scoring only 35 points in the first half.

Houston coach Rick Adelman, looking to make up for Yao's 22.1 scoring average, returned Tracy McGrady to the starting lineup. McGrady shot 1-of-8 and scored just two points in the first half, but wound up leading the Rockets with 21 points for the game.

Searching for offense, Adelman turned to Steve Novak, the second-year pro out of Marquette, in the third quarter.

Novak made all four of his field-goal attempts in the third, including a 3-pointer that tied the game and another that gave Houston a 59-56 lead with 48 seconds left in the period, its first lead since early in the second quarter.

"I think people have known that I can make some shots," said Novak, who finished with 10 points. "I think we had them in the fourth quarter, and they hit some big shots."

The Jazz took advantage of Yao being out on both ends of the court.

"It's definitely good to know he's not in there clogging up the middle, both offensively and defensively," Williams said.

Other Jazz players thought the Rockets missed Yao more on the defensive end.

"(They) definitely needed Yao," Kirilenko said. "We had a real simple time getting inside shots."

"It gave us some lanes to drive to the basket, attack the lane," Boozer said.

Adelman did not want to use Yao's absence as an excuse.

"It definitely hurt us not having a whole lot going on inside," he said. "But that should not have changed the way other people played. We didn't attack the way we normally do. We didn't put pressure on them around the basket, (except) for the third quarter. That's how we should have started the game."

The Rockets should be used to not having both of their top players. McGrady has already missed 14 games.

McGrady tried to be more of a passer, collecting nine assists in the game.

"You're taking 22 (points) and 10 (rebounds) out of the game," McGrady said of missing Yao. "It puts a lot of focus on myself, trying to get these guys to knock down shots. This was an important game for us, considering this team is ahead of us (in the Western Conference standings)."

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