Jazz beat Rockets, move into tie for fourth in WestApr 15, 2008 - 5:16 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- It took six months, but the Utah Jazz finally got one back from the Houston Rockets. Only this game brought with it huge playoff implications.
The Jazz, whose 2007-08 home debut was spoiled by the Rockets last November thanks to a 47-point performance by Tracy McGrady, closed out their home schedule Monday night by dealing the Rockets their second straight loss, a crushing 105-96 defeat.
With the win, Utah (54-27) moved into tie with Houston for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. The Jazz hold the tiebreaker should they meet up with the Rockets in the first round for the second straight campaign.
"(Houston) did a heck of a job. They played a tough game (Sunday), then they came in here and I thought they played extremely well," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "This is going to be a different team than we will see in the playoffs."
Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 11 boards and Deron Williams added 17 and nine assists for the Jazz, who own the league's best home record at 37-4.
"The way we play at home speaks for itself," Boozer said. "Teams will be ready for us when they come into our building, but we're always ready to play."
With playoff seeding in the conference still undecided, the Jazz helped their cause in a big way, while dealing a significant blow to Houston.
The playoff picture is particularly blurry in the middle, with the Hornets (55-25), Jazz, Spurs (55-26), Rockets and Suns (53-27) all likely competing for seeds 2-6 with even the outside possibility of a five-way tie once the regular season comes to a close.
"Last year, it seemed like we knew we were playing Houston for like the last month of the season," Boozer said. "This year, it will be a little bit more exciting. It's kind of the unknown."
On Monday night, in stark contrast to the two clubs' first meeting here on November 1, Utah neutralized McGrady, holding the All-Star to just 22 points.
"(McGrady's) a stud player," Boozer said. "We tried to double him a little bit, send somebody at him, had (Andrei Kirilenko) play him a little bit and try to give him different looks. We know if we see them again, he'll be ready to play again."
As they usually do when they're at their best, the Jazz spread their offense around, methodically taking control late in the second quarter after falling behind early.
Boozer scored seven points and Mehmet Okur knocked down a 3-pointer as the Jazz closed the first half on a 14-4 run to turn a tight ballgame into a 15-point affair at the half.
"The second quarter really killed us," McGrady said. "From that point on, they really buckled down, played great defense, knocked in a couple shots. It was the type of game that we needed to play, but we didn't do that in the second quarter, and that's why we lost this game."
Every player in the NBA knows the old adage that "every team makes a run," but for the Rockets on Monday night, that run materialized all too late.
Williams and Kirilenko opened up the floor with a pair of 3-pointers and Ronnie Brewer and Boozer began to exploit the Rockets under the basket as Utah extended its lead to as many as 21 in the opening minutes of the fourth.
"They were playing aggressive on us so we tried to step it up and play aggressive on the defensive end," Brewer said. "I just tried to move without the ball, cutting to (the basket). We tried to defend, and then I got easy baskets from (Williams) and other guys."
Houston finally pulled to within single digits when Bobby Jackson buried a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining, cutting the deficit to 97-90. But McGrady missed another attempt from downtown on Houston's following possession, and the Jazz sealed up win No. 54 at the foul line.
UTAH 105 FINAL
Apr 14 11:27 PM
UTAH 84 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 14 10:51 PM
UTAH 56 HALFTIME
Apr 14 10:08 PM
UTAH 21 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 14 9:36 PM
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