Utah Jazz: Jazz eager to finish off Houston

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As they look ahead to a probable Western Conference semifinals series against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz can appreciate the urgency of closing out the Rockets with a victory in Game 5 Tuesday in Houston.

The Lakers lead their series against Denver 3-0 and can complete the four-game sweep with a victory tonight. If the Jazz, meanwhile, cannot finish off the Rockets on Tuesday, their next chance would not come until Friday at home.

"We definitely don't want to be playing while the Lakers are sitting there resting,'' Korver said. "But at the same time, we can't be looking ahead like that. After these last three games, I'm guessing the next one is going to be just as tough as all these last ones were."

The Lakers will play Game 4 tonight, with Game 5 scheduled in Los Angeles on Wednesday. It is likely a Jazz/Lakers series would start Sunday at Staples Center even if the Jazz can't eliminate Houston until Friday.

The arena is booked for an Arena Football game Saturday night and an Alicia Keys concert next Monday. That could mean a 36-hour turnaround between series for the Jazz if they can't beat the Rockets on Tuesday.

But Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said late Saturday that he wouldn't concern himself with such matters until the current series was over.

"I can't worry about the other team,'' Sloan said. "All I can worry about is us because if you worry about them, you might not get to play them. The only thing I can do is try to get our guys to focus on who we have to play and I'll guarantee Houston's not going to back away from us."

History suggests a Jazz/Lakers series is almost a given at this point. Only eight teams have ever lost after taking a 3-1 series lead and no team has ever come back from 3-0 down.

The Lakers have averaged 117.3 points in their three victories over Denver, while the Jazz have struggled to score against Houston. They won Saturday despite scoring 86 points, shooting 43.1 percent and going 0-for-14 from three-point range.

"This whole playoff series against them has been a defensive battle,'' Williams said. "There's not much offense going on. It's not the way we really like to win, but it's the way things are going."

The Rockets again were left talking about the need to get Tracy McGrady going in the fourth quarter. McGrady finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists but drove for one layup in the fourth and went 2-for-4 from the foul line.

"Their whole game plan was to beat him up the whole game and be very physical with him," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "I really have a hard time understanding some of the things they can do to him out on the floor."

Once again, Utah's Carlos Boozer struggled in Game 4. Boozer went 3-of-13 for the game, though he did hit a pick-and-roll jumper in the fourth quarter. He did go 8-for-8 from the foul line after missing five free throws in the Jazz's Game 3 loss.

"I affect the game in more ways than just scoring," said Boozer, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds. "For us at this point in the season, you go out there and do what it takes."


Opponent Next game H/A Won in

1992 conference semifinals

Seattle W, 111-100 Home 5

1994 Conference semifinals

Denver L, 109-101 Home 7

1996 conference semifinals

San Antonio L, 98-87 Away 6

1997 conference semifinals

L.A. Lakers W, 98-83 Home 5

1998 conference semifinals

San Antonio W, 87-77 Home 5

2007 conference semifinals

Golden State W, 100-87 Home 5

The Jazz took a 3-1 series lead over Houston with Saturday's victory. A look at how they've done in similar situations in their playoff history: