April 22, 2008
Fast Breaks: Jazz-Rockets
By Paul Forrester
Game 2   Leaders
Jazz lead series 2-0   Points Rebounds Assists
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
• Game 2 was a microcosm of how Tracy McGrady titillates and disappoints all at the same time. There was the T-Mac of fantasy in the second quarter, scoring nine points, pulling down five rebounds, making two steals and blocking Carlos Boozer. But there was also the T-Mac of frustration, missing all four of his field-goal attempts and a free throw in the fourth quarter as Utah held off the undermanned Rockets. Yes, McGrady finished one assist short of a triple-double; yes, his teammates shot a combined 42 percent in the game; yes, the Jazz sent a rotating door's worth of fresh defenders at McGrady to tire him out. But did McGrady really see any different sort of defense than the Kobes or LeBrons or Nashes see on a nightly basis? Were the 43 minutes he played that taxing in a crucial playoff game? McGrady offered a superior performance, but the greats offer their team what it needs when it needs it. In the second quarter, that was a spark on defense; in the fourth the Rockets needed someone to score. And if the jumpers aren't falling, that means sucking it up and driving into the teeth of one of the league's most foul-prone teams to get to the line. McGrady didn't do that, and that is a big part of the reason why this series is all over but the Game 4 handshakes.

• Before the series, Houston GM Daryl Morey told a Houston weekly that the Rockets hoped to limit the damage Utah point guard Deron Williams could inflict by forcing him to look for his offense more than for Utah's parade of cutters and jump-shooters. That Houston was able to do that, holding Williams without an assist until 35 seconds remained in the first half and five total -- and still lost -- isn't a good sign for a team down 0-2 headed to an arena where the Jazz were 37-4 this season.

• There may not be a deeper or more versatile frontcourt in the NBA than Utah's. With Game 1 heroes Boozer mired in foul trouble and Andrei Kirilenko firing bricks, Mehmet Okur was everywhere Monday night. When his shot didn't fall early, he cleaned the glass; when he did find his range, he burned Houston from wing to wing. With Luis Scola and Shane Battier dispatched on Boozer and Kirilenko, Okur was free to roam and draw Houston's interior defenders away from the basket, essential in allowing the Jazz to out-rebound the league's best rebounding team this season.

• For as much blame as McGrady will receive in some quarters for the Game 2 loss, he and his fellow starters are getting little help from their bench. After getting outscored by their Jazz counterparts 28-17 in Game 1, the Rockets' reserves tallied 15 points Monday night, nine fewer than the Jazz bench. With 22 points on the bench with a stress fracture in Yao Ming's foot, Luther Head and friends have to do more than hustle. But truth be told, if they could do more, the Rockets may not be down 0-2.

• While Kyle Korver's one handed put-back late in the fourth quarter may have essentially sealed the Rockets' fate Monday, Jazz guard Ronnie Price's three-pointer at the end of the third quarter was the first nail. With Williams in the Utah locker room after a hard fall on his tailbone, the Rockets had taken a 67-66 lead as the seconds ticked off to close the quarter. Price, a second-year pro who played less than 10 minutes a game this season as Williams' caddie, stroked a 25-foot three to end the period and steal the lead and, more important, the thunder the Houston crowd was building into the break.


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