SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—The Utah Jazz will be playing on the road Sunday, but not in Houston.
The Jazz beat the Rockets 113-91 on Friday night to win the series 4-2 and avoid having to play a Game 7 on the road. The Jazz did that a year ago against the Rockets and didn’t want to push their luck again in Texas.
The third quarter all but guaranteed they wouldn’t have to. Deron Williams scored 13 of his 25 points in the period, making three of four 3-pointers as the Jazz outscored the Rockets 27-11.
It was Utah’s second chance to clinch the series and went significantly better than the first. The Rockets avoided elimination with a 95-69 win on Tuesday and the Jazz came home embarrassed and determined.
“Our guys got ready to play them here after they beat us pretty good down at their place,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
By ending the series Friday, the Jazz earned a trip to Los Angeles for Game 1 against the Lakers on Sunday.
Williams had just seven points at halftime, then took over the game in the third quarter. He was 4-for-7 from the field and pumped up his teammates as Utah pulled away on a 20-5 run. Houston had already cut a 17-point lead to four and Williams wanted the Jazz to pull away—and stay there.
“As a point guard, I feel you have to be an extension of the coach—be a leader out on the floor. I just tried to get guys hyped up for tonight,” Williams said.
After a listless game Tuesday, the Jazz were aggressive and intense on Friday, playing with a bit of a nasty streak and forcing the Rockets to play from behind nearly the entire game. Houston relied almost entirely on Tracy McGrady, who couldn’t beat the Jazz by himself—even with his 40 points.
McGrady fell to 0-7 in playoff series.
“It is what it is,” said McGrady, who faces more opening-round curse questions with every exit. “I thought we did some great things to put ourselves in a great situation to try to make this a series.”
Luis Scola was the only other Rockets player in double figures with 15 points. The Rockets lost point guard Rafer Alston with a sprained ankle late in the second quarter and the offense never recovered.
“They had the kind of game we had at home. Give them the credit. We just kind of ran out of gas,” Houston coach Rick Adelman said. “We just didn’t have enough answers for them.”
The Rockets had the longest winning streak of the regular season with 22 in a row, but in the playoffs they couldn’t win consecutive games.
The Jazz found their long-range shooting and made 10 of 22 3-pointers. Utah was 2-for-23 from beyond the arc in the previous two games.
“The biggest difference? It went in,” Kirilenko said with a grin.
Jazz fans again taunted McGrady with the chant “Over-rated!” then replaced it with “Beat LA!” as the fourth quarter wound down.
McGrady finished 13-for-26 and tried to carry the Rockets, but few of his teammates climbed aboard. McGrady pushed the Rockets through the end of the second quarter, going on a 9-0 run and scoring 13 straight for Houston while cutting a 17-point lead to 58-54 at halftime.
“He didn’t have much help out there,” Houston’s Shane Battier said. “The rest of us couldn’t get anything going and he was a one-man wrecking ball out there.”
But the Rockets could get nothing going in the third, scoring only 11 points while going 4-for-22 from the floor and looking a lot like the Jazz had when Houston staved off elimination Tuesday at home.
McGrady had just one point in the quarter. He came out firing in the fourth, but even the two-time scoring champion couldn’t save the Rockets, who lost to the Jazz in a Game 7 at Houston a year ago.
The Jazz didn’t want to put themselves in that situation again and snuffed the Rockets’ hopes by opening the third quarter with a 20-5 run, which Williams capped with seven straight points. He made back-to-back 3-pointers to put Utah up 77-59 and prompted Houston to call a timeout before it could get any worse.
On his way to the Jazz bench, Williams was pumping his fist and shaking his head while saying “No way”—apparently to the idea of another visit to Houston.