Tuesday , Apr , 24 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Aggressive Rockets gain 2-0 lead on Jazz

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Deron Williams was knocked to the ground, and
Utah was knocked down in Houston again as the Rockets used their advantage
inside — 27 points and nine boards from Yao Ming — and received a 31-point
performance from Tracy McGrady in a 98-90 victory over the Jazz.

The Western Conference quarterfinal series now shifts to Salt Lake City on
Thursday. Houston travels with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series as Utah
attempts to find another scoring option to complement Carlos Boozer. The
forward scored 13 of his team’s first 15 points, matching his career high with
41 points along with 12 rebounds.

If the second option is Williams, he will need to quickly shake the cobwebs
from a full-speed collision with Shane Battier at the 5:24 mark of the fourth.
He was on the floor for several minutes before leaving with assistance from
team personnel and returning a few minutes later. Battier was whistled for
the foul, but Houston continued to win the war.

The Rockets were the aggressors for the second straight game, illustrated by a
large discrepancy at the charity stripe in the third stanza. Houston made 13-
of-14 in the period, while Utah didn’t attempt a free throw.

Houston also received strong performances once again from its stars. McGrady
totaled 23 points and Yao poured in 28 during the 84-75 victory in Game 1 on
Saturday.

The pivotal stretch came with the game tied at 62-62 in the latter stages of
the third quarter. The Rockets rattled off seven straight points, triggered by
a McGrady three and capped by Yao’s two free throws.

Rafer Alston’s jumper with 9:19 to play staked Houston to a 76-64 lead, and
Utah drew within four points on two occasions late in the game — the last at
84-80 on Gordan Giricek’s jumper with 3:28 remaining. The Rockets answered
with six points in a row to seal the victory.

Neither team could find the shooting touch from beyond the arc, combining to
make 5-of-33. Houston made just 4-of-24 to Utah’s 1-of-9.

The Rockets made up for it by draining 34-of-38 from the foul line, while Utah
made 13-of-17. Utah wasn’t accustomed to the low free throw attempts, as it
shot 13 less free throws than it averaged during the regular season.

Utah did share the wealth, assisting on 26 of 38 made baskets, but didn’t
receive any offensive output from Andrei Kirilenko. The forward was saddled by
foul trouble and scored zero points in just over 17 1/2 minutes. Williams
added 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Matt Harpring donated
14 off the bench.

“We came up a little short,” said Utah head coach Jerry Sloan. “Our playoff
team will get better as we go along. We are going to have to be better to beat
this team. We know that.”

Chuck Hayes recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards, Alston
totaled 11 points and Battier added 10 in the victory.

Boozer’s fast start helped push the Jazz to a 17-8 edge, but Houston scored
the next seven points. Utah’s defense held the Rockets to three field goals in
the final five minutes, taking a 26-17 lead into the second quarter.

The Rockets fought back to tie the game late in the first half, 39-39, on
Battier’s three-pointer. Derek Fisher’s layup capped the scoring and gave the
Jazz a two-point lead at the half.

Game Notes

Boozer and Mehmet Okur each had six assists. Okur also had 10 boards and four
points on 2-of-9 shooting…Kirilenko had just two points in a little less
than 16 minutes on Saturday…The game featured six ties and nine lead
changes….McGrady also pulled down 10 rebounds…Attendance 18,206.

HOU UTA