Wednesday , Apr , 18 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Jazz, Rockets battle before playoff meeting

(Sports Network) – The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz finish their regular-
season schedules tonight at EnergySolutions Arena, and will then battle in the
first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs.

The Jazz captured the Northwest Division and are the fourth seed in the
Western Conference, while Houston is No. 5 and finished in third place in the
Southwest Division. The Rockets own home-court advantage in the best-of-seven
series since they had a better regular-season record than Utah.

There is plenty of playoff history between the Jazz and Rockets. Houston
defeated Utah in the first round of the postseason in 1995 and in the 1994
West finals. The Jazz knocked out the Rockets in the opening round of 1985 and
1998, and in the 1997 conference finals.

The Jazz are 2-1 against the Rockets this season and have captured three of
the last four contests in the series. Houston has lost two straight and six of
its last seven at Utah.

Utah ended a three-year playoff drought by qualifying for this year’s
postseason. The Jazz last appeared in the playoffs in 2003, when they were
eliminated in five games by the Sacramento Kings in the opening round.

On Monday, Carlos Boozer scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the
Jazz to a convincing 130-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at
EnergySolutions Arena.

Gordan Giricek added 21 points in the win for the Jazz. Paul Millsap and
Mehmet Okur both had 16 points, while Deron Williams and Derek Fisher netted
13 apiece for the Jazz, who have won two of their last three games overall.

The Jazz are an impressive 30-10 at home this season. Boozer leads the team in
scoring (21.1 ppg) and rebounding (11.8 rpg), while Williams has dished out a
club-best 9.4 assists per game.

The Rockets are back in the postseason after a one-year absence. Houston has
not won a playoff series since 1997. The Rockets last postseason series
victory was when they defeated Seattle, 4-3, in the 1997 West semis.

Houston enters tonight’s contest on a five-game winning streak. Tracy McGrady
posted 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, as the Rockets held off the
Phoenix Suns, 120-117, on Monday at the Toyota Center.

Yao Ming collected 34 points and nine boards for Houston, which has won 13 of
its last 17 games overall and played its final home game of the campaign,
finishing with a 28-13 mark at the Toyota Center. Shane Battier scored 17
points, and Rafer Alston contributed 11 points and nine assists.

The Rockets are a solid 24-16 as the visitor this season. They have won five
in a row as the visitor.

Yao leads the Rockets in scoring (25.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg), while
McGrady has handed out a team-best 6.4 assists per contest.