Rockets 98, Jazz 90

Tuesday, April 24th 2007, 7:26 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ The Houston Rockets have gotten away with two bad offensive performances to take a commanding lead in their playoff series with Utah.

Good thing they haven't forgotten how to make their free throws.

Tracy McGrady scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Jazz 98-90 on Monday night, offsetting Carlos Boozer's 41 points with 34-of-38 accuracy from the foul line.

The Rockets shot 36 percent from the field in Game 2 after shooting 33 percent in Game 1. Houston went 4-for-24 from 3-point range on Monday, but will still head to Utah with a 2-0 lead, a deficit the Jazz have never overcome.

``We find some way to keep ourselves in a game, despite shooting the ball extremely bad,'' said McGrady, who went 9-for-29 from the field in Game 2. ``But we hit big shots when we needed them. We're doing a great job of getting to the free throw line.''

Boozer matched a career-high point total, tossing in jumpers from all angles over 7-foot-6 Yao Ming. He finished 17-of-30 from the field and had 12 rebounds and six assists.

Now he has to figure out a way to get the rest of his team to follow his lead. Outside of Boozer, the Jazz shot 21-of-54 (39 percent) on Monday.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

``We're going to have to be better to beat this team, we know that,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``We need everybody on our team to perform well in order to try to beat them.''

In Monday's other NBA playoff game, Detroit beat Orlando 98-90.

Yao had 27 points and hit all nine of his free throws. McGrady went 12-for-14 from the line.

The Jazz were charged with 29 personal fouls, most of them failed efforts to contain Houston's All-Star duo. Boozer said Utah has no choice but to defend Yao and McGrady that way.

``If that's how the series is going to be called, we have to adjust a little bit,'' Boozer said. ``But that's how we have to play them. They're two superstars.''

Chuck Hayes, whose wife gave birth on Saturday, had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight playoff series when they led 2-0.

Hayes grabbed seven offensive rebounds, a catalyst for the Rockets' 15 second-chance points.

``The first half we were really struggling to score and Chuck gave us some great second-chance opportunities,'' Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. ``Tremendous hustle.''

Since 2001, only six teams have rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a series. The Rockets were one of the teams that blew a 2-0 lead, losing four of five to Dallas in 2005.

The Jazz have never come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a playoff series. They have lost 16 of their last 17 road playoff games.

Boozer scored 15 of Utah's first 17 points as the Jazz built an early lead. But he missed four straight shots, part of Utah's 4-for-16 second quarter as the Rockets got within 41-39 at halftime.

Houston regained the lead in the third quarter and opened the fourth with a 9-2 spurt to stretch the lead to 76-64.

The Jazz made it 84-80 on baskets by Mehmet Okur and Boozer, but McGrady made two free throws with 3:13 left as chants of ``MVP! MVP!'' echoed through the Toyota Center.

``Mac did a great job cutting to the basket and getting to the free throw line,'' Battier said. ``That's the only way we can survive 36 percent shooting.''

The Rockets hit 10 of their last 12 free throws to secure the victory.

Pistons 98, Magic 90

Richard Hamilton scored 22 points to lead four Pistons with at least 17 and Detroit took a 2-0 series lead.

Chauncey Billups had 21 points, eight assists and only one turnover for the Pistons, while Tayshaun Prince scored 18 points and Rasheed Wallace had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 22 points and Grant Hill had 21 for Orlando, but Dwight Howard, who coach Brian Hill said was bothered by a stomach ailment, was held to eight points and didn't score in the second half until the final minute.

The Pistons were in control for much of the game, but just like the opener, Orlando rallied late to make the final score look respectable. Detroit led by 15 points early in the fourth quarter, but was ahead by just six with 1 1/2 minutes left. On the ensuing possession, Billups ended the Magic's comeback hopes with a three-point play.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Orlando.