by Russ Bengtson
Well, I didn’t see that coming. Actually, I didn’t see it at all. I had a prior committment to see a friend’s band in Brooklyn, and I figured the Jazz would take care of business at home.
As usual, this game was Tracy McGrady’s fault. He scored a series-high 27, including 7 key points in the fourth quarter (he played the whole quarter but scored all his points after the 3:30 mark). It helped that starting point guard Rafer Alston was back in the mix, looking like he hadn’t missed a step, scoring 20 points and dropping a 50-cent piece. And Carl Landry, who received a little in-game dental work courtesy of Carlos Boozer, came back and wound up blocking Deron Wiliams’s potential game winner.
As for the Jazz, there’s no excuses. Three guys had double-doubles—Williams had 28 and 12, Boozer had 15 and 13, and Mehmet Okur had 12 and 11. Andrei Kirilenko was once again a non-factor, with five points, two rebounds and no assists in 31 minutes. Two major problems, though:
PAINT SCORING: The Jazz were outscored inside by Houston, 40-26. Inexcusable, especially with Yao Ming watching from the bench. This is why having a three-point specialist as a center isn’t the best thing in the world.
REALLY FOUL SHOOTING: The Jazz earned more trips to the stripe—33 to 22—but only converted 20 of them. As Deron Williams helpfully pointed out afterwards, “Free throws definitely hurt us. You lose a game by two points and you miss 13 free throws, it’s definitely frustrating.” One would imagine.
So. The Jazz still have home-court advantage, but the Rockets know they can win in Salt Lake. Of course if they don’t win in Salt Lake tonight, they might not get another chance. Not this year, at least. Seeing that the road team has won every game so far.
I might want to watch this one.