Jazz eliminate Rockets with Game Six winMay 3, 2008 - 6:40 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Utah Jazz got the best from Tracy McGrady, and Deron Williams answered with his. Now, Williams and the Jazz get a shot at Kobe Bryant.
The Jazz advanced to the second round Friday night with a 113-91 victory in Game Six, finally putting away the Houston Rockets, who rebounded from two home losses but still fell in the Western Conference first-round series.
"It feels good," Utah center Mehmet Okur said. "It's been a good challenge for us. They did such a good job. They are some basketball team, I'll tell you that. They came out there and tried to win every game."
Williams scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half, burying a slew of 3-pointers in the third quarter to put the Rockets on ice.
"I wasn't really looking to score much in the first half," Williams said. "I just wanted to be a little more assertive, a little more aggressive to start the second half."
Houston, which erased an early 19-point deficit with a furious rally late in the first half, couldn't repeat the feat in the second half as Utah held on for a 4-2 series win.
Now, the Jazz have one day to prepare for their second-round opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers, who disposed of the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets with a swift four-game sweep.
McGrady, who entered the game as the series' leading scorer but was shooting just 41 percent from the floor (49-of-120), had his best stretch of the series in the first half, single-handedly bringing his club back from the brink of a blowout.
The All-Star guard, who still has yet to win a playoff series in his NBA career, scored 13 straight points, going inside and out to cut a 19-point deficit to just a single point.
"Houston just kept coming at us. We'd get a lead and they'd come right back in the ballgame," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "That says a lot about what they do and coach Adelman's coaching."
But Houston failed to capitalize on the shift in momentum. When the third quarter rolled around, the Jazz suddenly seemed in full control again, and McGrady all but disappeared.
"It's tough any time you have a lot of confidence in your team and your chances and you fall short," McGrady said. "That's a (heck) of a ballclub over there."
After a 16-point second quarter, he went scoreless in the third as the Jazz began to run away with it. He went 0-of-4 from the floor in the period. His job was made tougher by the absence of point guard Rafer Alston, who left in the second quarter with a severely sprained right ankle and did not return.
Meanwhile, Williams, after a quiet first half, took over.
"I thought we let a big lead slip away. We've had games all series where we've had 14-point leads, 15-points leads and they come back. The same thing tonight. And it's a little frustrating," Williams said. "I wanted to try to open the game back up, and I got hot. Shots started feeling good, and I just let it go."
The third-year point guard found Carlos Boozer for an open 18-footer on the opening possession of the half, then did it himself moments later with his first of four third-quarter 3-pointers.
"He put us on his back - the whole series, really, especially offensively," Boozer said. "He did a great job of knocking down shots in the third quarter to get us going."
By the time he finally took a breather late in the period, he had pushed the Jazz to a 17-point advantage.
McGrady didn't score his first bucket of the second half until the 9:26 mark of the fourth, hitting a runner, drawing a foul and completing a three-point play. But by that point, it was already far too late for the Rockets, despite their superstar's 40-point showing.
The victory was a huge turnaround for the Jazz, whose Game Five loss was one of their worst performances of the season.
They were completely muscled out of the paint, consistently settling for bad jumpers the opposite of coach Jerry Sloan's time-tested approach. The Jazz shot just 36.5 percent as a team en route to a series-low 69 points and the only blowout of the series.
Until Friday night, that is.
Williams ran Utah's offense to precision as the Jazz became the first team all series to break the 100-point mark, in the process setting a new season-low with just five turnovers.
"We got stagnant in Game Five. You've got to give credit to their defense; they're a good defensive team and they just made things so hard on us in the first quarter in that game, it just took us out of our rhythm early and we could never get it back," Williams said.
"I think we did a better job of coming out in the first quarter and executing well. We pushed it a little bit more and didn't get their defense a chance to set up."
By the time he finally left the floor with 1:50 remaining, the EnergySolutions Arena crowd had already erupted into a "Beat L.A. !" chant.
Williams added nine assists and six boards and Okur (19 points, 13 boards) and Boozer (15, 10) each registered double-doubles.
UTAH 113 FINAL
May 3 1:09 AM
UTAH 85 END, 3RD QTR
May 3 12:35 AM
UTAH 58 HALFTIME
May 2 11:51 PM
UTAH 32 END, 1ST QTR
May 2 11:14 PM
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