Jazz edge Rockets again, take 2-0 lead in seriesApr 22, 2008 - 6:05 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
HOUSTON (Ticker) - Deron Williams made key plays down the stretch to give the Utah Jazz a 90-84 victory over the Houston Rockets in their Western Conference first-round matchup on Monday.
Sweeping the first two games on the road gives the Jazz a huge edge in the series heading to Salt Lake City for Game Three where they posted the best record in the NBA at 37-4 in the regular season.
Williams finished with 22 points and Mehmet Okur chipped in 16 and 16 rebounds for Utah, which closed out the fourth quarter on a 14-8 surge in the final minutes.
"(Williams) took the game over," Utah forward Carlos Boozer said.
"He's a very smart basketball player, a very smart person," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of Williams. "For only a third-year player, he's amazing."
With the game tied at 76-76 in the fourth, Williams and Boozer combined for five consecutive points to put Utah on top to stay at the 5:06 mark.
"It was great the way we came out tonight and not just settled for the one victory (here)," Williams said. "Both games we did a good job of answering their runs."
"Deron Williams really hurt us in the last six minutes," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.
The Rockets, who won 22 in a row during the regular season, had used a 9-5 run to tie the game for the final time before Williams and Boozer took over.
"We just couldn't make that play to put us over the top," Houston forward Shane Battier said.
With Utah holding a three-point edge, Kyle Korver added to the lead with a jumper from the baseline just before the shot-clock sounded to make it 87-82 with 20 seconds remaining.
"The shot Kyle Korver hit was a killer," Rockets swingman Tracy McGrady said. "We played good defense for 20-something seconds."
In last season's first-round series against Utah, Houston captured the first two contests, but still came up short during the decisive seventh game.
McGrady carried the load with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for Houston, which missed 10-of-26 from the free-throw line.
However, McGrady was limited to just one point in the fourth.
"I'm pretty tired," McGrady said. "It's tough man, banging with those guys. It's a physical team. (Utah's) Matt Harpring has a football mentality. That kind of got me going a little bit. My team followed me.
"I tried to do everything I could. I had no legs (in the fourth). I was empty. I had a fresh (Andrei) Kirilenko on me. Trying to rebound, trying to make plays for my teammates, trying to score, playing 43 minutes. That's a lot."
The Jazz gave McGrady little rest.
"We did a great job of attacking T-Mac," Williams said.
"A huge part of the game is to wear him down a little bit," Kirilenko said. "If he's tired, he's less thinking about taking the big shot."
With Boozer running into early foul trouble, Houston failed to take advantage as Williams connected on three 3-pointers in the opening first minutes to help Utah hold a 26-17 after the first quarter.
The 6-11 Okur also drilled a pair of shots from the arc in the final 35 seconds of the first half to give the Jazz a 47-41 lead at the break. Utah went 6-of-13 on 3-pointers in the half and also held a 16-8 in points off the bench.
McGrady did his best to keep Houston in the game, collecting 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists at intermission.
Rookie Luis Scola's basket with 4:39 left in the third gave Houston a 59-57 edge, its first lead since early in the game. But the Jazz scored seven straight points to go back in front 66-61.
Houston answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Shane Battier for a one-point lead. But Ronnie Price made nailed a shot from the arc to barely beat the buzzer as Utah grabbed a 69-67 lead after three.
HOUSTON 84 FINAL
Apr 22 12:13 AM
HOUSTON 67 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 21 11:33 PM
HOUSTON 41 HALFTIME
Apr 21 10:50 PM
HOUSTON 17 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 21 10:13 PM
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