Boozer, Okur help Jazz earn 3-1 lead in seriesApr 27, 2008 - 7:21 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Things may finally be getting back to normal for the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.
For the first time all series, the home team took advantage of its home-court advantage, as the Jazz rebounded from a rare home loss to take Game Four, 86-82, on Saturday night.
The win gave Utah a 3-1 advantage in the series, with a chance to advance to round two Tuesday night in Houston, where Utah was victorious in Games One and Two.
"I thought that was a heck of a ballgame. Every time we got a little bit of a lead on them, they came right back at us; that's the strength of their team," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We had to make some plays in order to be able to win the ballgame."
Deron Williams had 17 points and nine assists and Mehmet Okur dominated the Rockets on the glass, pulling down 18 boards to go with 14 points as Utah withstood Houston's persistent pressure to edge out a victory.
"(Okur) saved my butt," Williams said. "I owe Memo something I'll buy him a car or something."
"The ball kind of bounced at the rim and glass, and I had a good position so I was able to get the rebound," Okur said. "I tried to stay active on the glass on the defensive and offensive end (throughout the game). I was able to get myself going and stay active; I just tried to grab every rebound."
After Williams missed a pair of foul shots with a two-point lead, Okur grabbed his biggest board of the game with 5.5 seconds remaining, drew a foul and knocked down two crucial free throws to help seal the win.
"I felt like that was a point where Dikembe and the guys should have been in the game," Houston swing Tracy McGrady said of Okur's offensive board.
Saturday's showdown was oddly similar to Thursday's Game Three, with the Jazz taking control in the third quarter after a tight first half.
But unlike that contest - in which Houston used an explosive rally in the final four minutes to erase the deficit and stun Utah with a two-point victory - the Jazz were able to withstand all of the Rockets' rallies this time around.
After falling behind by as many as 16 in the third quarter, the Rockets never allowed the Jazz to run away with anything.
But though they pulled to as close as a single point in the final period, they never got the extra roll, the extra bounce or the extra call, and playing from behind for most of the night ultimately caught up with them.
Houston scored six straight points to make it 68-67 early in the fourth, capped by Rafer Alston forcing Williams' turnover and going the other way for an easy layup.
"We put ourselves in a great position in the fourth quarter," McGrady said. "We were right where we wanted to be. I thought we did a great job of buckling down on the defensive end, getting some key stops."
But a frustrated Williams immediately answered on the other end, posting Alston up and muscling his way inside for a one-handed scoop layup.
One possession later, Williams drove the lane again for another layup and, after a two-minute drought, Williams found Carlos Boozer for a 14-footer that gave Utah a comfortable, if tenuous, seven-point cushion.
Stopping the third-year point guard in the paint continued to be an issue for the Rockets.
"(Assistant Phil Johnson) suggested we let him have the ball in the middle of the floor, and he made a couple great plays that kind of revved us up," Sloan said. "He got on top of the basket two or three times."
Williams didn't have his best offensive night but seemed to be able to create anything he needed when the moment called for it.
After Houston pulled to within five with less than three minutes remaining, Williams exploded through the lane and finished with an emphatic dunk, bringing the EnergySolutions Arena crowd to its feet.
"Coaches just made a great adjustment in the timeout," Williams said. "They were doubling me pretty hard on the pick-and-roll, and they made it hard for me to get a shot off or to get it back to Booz. We kind of faked the screen and just let me take'em one on one."
Moments later, he went through the paint and added another layup for good measure.
Tracy McGrady scored 23 points and Alston added 15 for Houston, but the two guards combined to shoot just 15-of-43 (35 percent). However, McGrady took just one shot the entire fourth quarter.
"I'm surprised. I thought he'd be a little more aggressive. I know he talked about being a little more aggressive, and we knew that," Williams said. "Our guys have done a great job all series.
"They stepped up to the challenge and made things real difficult. They meet him at halfcourt, try to bump him, don't let him get anywhere free, and that wears him down. In that fourth quarter, it can get tough on your legs."
Both clubs get two days off before facing off Tuesday in Game Five in Houston. The Jazz won two close games in Houston to open up the series.
"Both teams are very familiar with each other," Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said. "We know their sets, they know our sets. That's why the defensive effort is there. We've just got to keep playing hard; the best team's going to win every night."
UTAH 86 FINAL
Apr 27 1:23 AM
UTAH 66 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 27 12:40 AM
UTAH 46 HALFTIME
Apr 26 11:54 PM
UTAH 21 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 26 11:16 PM
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