Rockets Extend Series Lead To 3-2 Against Jazz

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: May 1, 2007

HOUSTON — After losing two consecutive playoff games on the road and the conference playoff series tied, the Houston Rockets put together a gutsy performance to withstand the Utah Jazz in a 96-92 victory at the Toyota Center.

Game Six will shift back to Utah on Thursday and if necessary the seventh and deciding game will be played here in Houston on Saturday.

Tracy McGrady scored 26 points and dished out 16 assists in the game.Yao Ming added 21 points and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds. Forward Shane Battier had a career playoff-high 15 points, making five of seven shots, all from beyond the arc.

The Rockets had more players scoring in double figures (five) than they had scoring at all in Game Three (four). Ming converted two free throws and Chuck Hayes added a blocked shot in the final seconds to seal the victory.

Although Game Six is headed back to Energy Solutions Arena, history says the team who wins Game Five usually goes on to win the series.

This game was truly about defense, and Hayes, who didn’t score a point in the game, made a crucial stop to seal the win.

“With the game on the line I took a chance,” Hayes stated. “I felt Derek Fisher’s shoulders and chest in my chest. I thought I was there.”

The Rockets turned the game around after a slow start and perhaps saved their season by getting their offense in gear and showing the resilence they had not in Utah.

The Jazz rallied back within one and twice had shots for the lead. Mehmet Okur missed a three-pointer. Andrei Kirilenko got the rebound, but Matt Harpring left his jumper short.

Guard Rafer Alston got the rebound and was immediately fouled with 20.5 seconds left. He made his second free throw, putting the Rockets in front 94-92 and in need of one more step.

“We kept fighting. We kept competing,” Alston said. “We were determined to get stops and finish it off with a rebound.”

They got what they needed most when they needed it most and now will move on to Utah to try to advance to the second-round of the NBA playoffs.