Rockets avoid elimination, crush JazzApr 30, 2008 - 5:47 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
HOUSTON (Ticker) - Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets still have a chance.
McGrady scored 29 points and the Rockets took out all their frustrations on the Utah Jazz on Tuesday with an impressive 95-69 victory in Game Five of their Wester Conference first-round series.
Houston will get an opportunity to tie the series at 3-3 on Friday in Game Six at Utah and force another pivotal Game Seven. In last season's opening-round series, the Rockets dropped the decisive game at home to the Jazz.
"We know we can win in Utah, because we've done it before," McGrady said. "It doesn't even feel like we're down, 3-2. Two of the games we lost we felt like we had it."
Houston had lost four games in a row to Utah at home before Tuesday. But the Rockets showed no signs of the pressure of playing in a win-or-go-home situation.
"You want to be loose," Rockets guard Rafer Alston said. "You don't want to be tense and uptight."
"We defended them all game," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We rebounded the ball and actually made shots. They struggled and we were very, very good."
McGrady, who had been ineffective in the fourth quarter in both home losses, scored eight points in the fourth. The former two-time scoring champion finished 13-of-26 from the field.
"If I've got it going like that, I'm going to be aggressive," McGrady said.
"He's played tremendously the whole time," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "I don't know what people are talking about. He's been a load for us to deal with."
After dismal first-quarter performances by both clubs, Bobby Jackson came off the bench to provide a spark for the Rockets. He scored seven points during a 9-0 surge to open the second to make it 27-16 with 9:32 left.
"The second group came in and was big for us in the second quarter," Adelman said. "That was a turning point."
The Jazz couldn't get their offense untracked in the first half, and the Rockets stretched their lead to 39-22 on Chuck Hayes' tip-in at the 4:32 mark. Houston carried a 43-32 into the locker room, although neither team shot well above 40 percent through the first two quarters.
"They were terrific defensively," Sloan said. "It was pretty much their ballgame the whole night. We started taking outside shots and turned the ball over. Their bench really hurt us, compared to our bench."
Utah's bench failed to contribute in the first half, getting outscored, 18-0, by Houston.
"We have to outplay their bench," Jackson said. "That's what keeps them in games, their bench. You have to believe you can take this to Game Seven. Our biggest challenge will be Friday (in Game Six)."
The Jazz made a run to get back in the game early in the third, scoring eight points in a row to slice the deficit to 47-40 with 8:27 left. But the Rockets responded with 7-0 run to widen their lead to 14 points at the 6:43 mark.
"We just didn't play any good defense," Jazz center Mehmet Okur said. "They controlled the tempo and we didn't do anything. We settled for outside jumpers."
Houston continued to pull away behind a 12-0 run later in the quarter to help forge a commanding 74-55 advantage heading into the fourth. The Rockets connected on 13-of-19 shots in period.
Rockets forward Shane Battier knows that Tuesday's 26-point win won't help in Game Six.
"We feel like we're improving every game," Battier said. "The first game was our worst game. We put together a complete game. Nobody's going to remember the score and how the game went down."
Carlos Boozer collected 19 points and 10 rebounds and Okur added 14 and 10 for the Jazz, who trailed by as many as 23 points in the fourth.
"We started shooting those (outside shots) and they kept putting pressure on us," Sloan said. "You get yourself in a little panicky mode, and you can't play like that. They proved they can play at another level. We have to play a lot harder to be able to beat them."
Alston turned in another solid game with 14 points and six assists. He also did a better job of slowing down Utah's Deron Williams, who finished with just 13 points.
"I was able to keep (Williams) in front of me late in the game," Alston said.
McGrady feels the return of Alston has made a big difference in the series. Alston missed the first two games due to a nagging hamstring injury.
"(Alston) controls the tempo, gets us in our sets," McGrady said. "I don't have to handle the ball (as much). I can play off the ball."
HOUSTON 95 FINAL
Apr 29 11:50 PM
HOUSTON 74 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 29 11:19 PM
HOUSTON 43 HALFTIME
Apr 29 10:35 PM
HOUSTON 18 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 29 10:04 PM
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