Rockets take series lead over Jazz
Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Houston again held serve at home, as Tracy
McGrady scored 26 points and Yao Ming added 21 in the Rockets’ 96-92 victory
over Utah, coming within one game of advancing to the Western Conference
Yao also grabbed 15 boards and McGrady dished out a career-high 16 assists for
the Rockets, who seized a 3-2 series lead with the battle shifting back to
Salt Lake City’s EnergySolutions Arena for Game 6 on Thursday.
“Obviously McGrady had a terrific game and we tried to help double-team him a
few times,” Utah head coach Jerry Sloan said. “We played him certain ways and
he found people all over the floor.”
Shane Battier totaled 15 points and Rafer Alston added 14 for Houston, which
continued the trend of home cooking in this series. Utah now heads now to the
place where it took both Game 3 and Game 4, the latter in 98-85 fashion on
In that game, Deron Williams made 10-of-14 from the floor for 25 points.
However, as the story normally goes for a young perimeter player in the
playoffs, Williams reverted back to poor form from earlier in the series,
draining just 4-of-16 shots for 13 points with six assists.
Carlos Boozer kept the Jazz in the game with 26 points and eight rebounds,
while Derek Fisher donated 17 points. However, Fisher ran straight into Chuck
Hayes late in the game, drawing a whistle and an offensive foul with the Jazz
down just 94-92 with 12 ticks left.
The defining defensive moment from the Rockets starter without a point
culminated a furious Utah rally attempt in the closing minutes. Trailing 91-84
with under three minutes to play, Matt Harpring drained two of his three
baskets in succession to draw the Jazz within 91-88 with 2:18 to play.
Boozer then penetrated down the lane and used his left hand off the glass for
a 91-90 game before Yao used the backboard for a short jumper with 1:25 on the
clock. Again, Boozer finished with his left hand off a deft pass from Andrei
Kirilenko with 1:12 remaining.
Kirilenko had five assists with four boards, eight points and three blocks in
Utah had several chances for the lead in the final minute. Mehmet Okur, who
made just 1-of-4 from beyond the arc on the night, misfired from long distance
but Kirilenko ran down the rebound. Harpring followed by short-arming a jumper
from the left elbow and Alston connected on 1-of-2 from the foul line.
Fisher then steamrolled down the lane straight into Hayes, who fell to the
floor and drew the charge. Yao buried a pair from the charity stripe to seal
the victory with 11 seconds left.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a hard play, it’s more of a courageous play,” Houston
head coach Jeff Van Gundy said of Hayes’ charge. “You just have to have the
courage to step in and want to win.”
In an evenly played first half, Utah led 23-21 after one stanza and 44-43 at
Houston took its first lead of the third stanza at 54-52 on Battier’s three
with 8:41 to play. McGrady tallied 11 of his club’s final 14 points in the
period, with his three cutting Houston’s deficit to 70-68 late in the third.
Utah made 46.8 percent of its shots, while Houston was almost identical at
46.7 percent…The Rockets, however, drained 12-of-24 from beyond the arc,
including 5-of-7 from Battier…Houston hasn’t won a playoff series since
1997, while Utah hasn’t advanced past the first round since 2000.