SALT LAKE CITY -- Scoring seven points in a quarter is normally nothing for Tracy McGrady.
With his team down 2-0 in the opening round of the playoffs, it meant everything to the Houston Rockets.
McGrady scored all of those seven in the final 3:29, finally snapping out of a fourth-quarter slump and finishing with 27 to lead Houston to a 94-92 victory against the Utah Jazz on Thursday night that gave the Rockets life in a series that could have been headed for a sweep.
"This was a very emotional win for us," said McGrady, who had scored one point total in the fourth quarter of the first two games of the series. "We played like we really didn't want to go home early. We played with a lot of passion and a lot of heart."
The Rockets were trailing the best-of-7 series 2-0 and coming to Utah, where the Jazz had the best home record in the NBA. One of Utah's four losses in Salt Lake City was to Houston, which won the Jazz's home opener and did it again when it mattered much, much more.
Rafer Alston added 20 points and five assists in his first game in nearly two weeks. Carl Landry had 11 rebounds and two blocks, swatting away Deron Williams' shot that could have won it for the Jazz just before the buzzer. Landry also sacrificed his left front tooth, courtesy of an elbow from Utah's Carlos Boozer in the second quarter, and had a huge gap in his post-game grin.
Landry said he was seeing double after the elbow and was bleeding from the mouth as he was led to the locker room, but was back for the second half.
"This was a big game. It doesn't matter if you've got a hurt toe or a hurt back, whatever the case may be," Landry said. "No matter what it is, football, hockey, basketball. It's part of playing sports."
Game 4 will be Saturday back in Utah, where the Jazz were 37-4 in the regular season. Instead of playing for a sweep, the Jazz will try to avoid doing the same thing Houston did last year in the opening round against Utah. The Rockets won the first two games of that series, then lost the next two and eventually the series in seven games.
The Rockets, who are without 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming, outscored Utah in the paint 40-26.
"They showed how much they wanted to win a ballgame," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "They scored 40 points in the paint. I thought they brought it to us all night long."
Williams had 28 points and 12 assists.
Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Mehmet Okur scored 12 and pulled down 11 boards for the Jazz, whose poor free throw shooting caught up with them in the fourth quarter when McGrady started scoring.
The Jazz went 20-for-33 from the foul line, getting 11 more chances than Houston (16-for-22) but failing to capitalize.
"Free throws definitely hurt us. You lose a game by two points and you miss 13 free throws, it's definitely frustrating," Williams said.
The poor shooting from the line and the resurgence of McGrady were enough to guarantee the Rockets will be playing host to a Game 5 next week.
"No one thought we could win in Utah. I don't like the term 'stole' because that implies that we didn't play well," said Houston's Shane Battier, who scored 12. "We finally did a good job of executing our game plan. We took away what we wanted to take away."
McGrady tied the game at 86 on a foul shot with 3:29 left, then gave the Rockets the lead with two more from the line with 2:50 remaining. He added a 19-foot jumper with 2:16 to go -- his first fourth-quarter field goal of the series -- then followed with a 20-footer to give the Rockets a 92-86 lead.
As he was shooting, Landry was drawing a foul on Andrei Kirilenko away from the ball. The basket counted and Landry made the free throw to convert the unusual three-point play and give Houston a 93-86 lead.
But the Jazz weren't done.
Kyle Korver hit a 3-pointer, McGrady was called for an offensive foul and Okur hit another 3 to draw the Jazz within 93-92 with 37 seconds left. McGrady missed at the other end and the Jazz had a chance to win, but Landry blocked Williams' shot from the lane and the rebound went to Luis Scola, who was fouled and went 1-for-2 from the line with 0.2 seconds left.
After a timeout, the Jazz threw away the inbounds pass.
Scola had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
|Tracy McGrady rises to the occasion for Houston, and dashes Utah's sweep dreams. (Getty Images)|
|Houston (1-2) «||27||17||26||24||94|
|HOU:T. McGrady 27 Pts
HOU:C. Landry 11 Reb
HOU:T. McGrady 7 Ast
|UTA:D. Williams 28 Pts
UTA:C. Boozer 13 Reb
UTA:D. Williams 12 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|S. Battier, SF||45||4-9||2-2||2||0||4||12|
|T. McGrady, SG||44||11-26||5-9||5||7||4||27|
|L. Scola, PF||39||4-13||8-10||10||4||5||16|
|R. Alston, PG||35||8-14||0-0||0||5||1||20|
|D. Mutombo, C||18||1-1||0-0||7||0||1||2|
|C. Landry, PF||23||3-4||1-1||11||0||3||7|
|B. Jackson, PG||16||4-10||0-0||1||2||2||8|
|C. Hayes, PF||16||1-2||0-0||7||2||5||2|
|A. Brooks, PG||4||0-2||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|S. Francis, PG||Did Not Play|
|L. Woods, C||Did Not Play|
|Y. Ming, C||Did Not Play|
|L. Head, PG||Did Not Play|
|S. Novak, SF||Did Not Play|
|M. Harris, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|D. Williams, PG||43||9-17||7-8||3||12||2||28|
|M. Okur, C||40||3-13||4-7||11||3||3||12|
|C. Boozer, PF||40||6-11||3-8||13||2||4||15|
|A. Kirilenko, SF||31||2-7||0-2||2||0||4||5|
|R. Brewer, SG||30||5-7||2-2||3||3||2||12|
|K. Korver, SF||18||2-5||0-0||1||0||3||5|
|M. Harpring, SF||17||4-6||1-2||4||0||3||10|
|P. Millsap, PF||16||0-2||1-2||2||0||3||1|
|R. Price, PG||5||1-2||2-2||0||0||0||4|
|J. Hart, PG||Did Not Play|
|J. Collins, C||Did Not Play|
|C. Miles, SG||Did Not Play|
|M. Almond, SG||Did Not Play|
|K. Fesenko, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|