SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Utah Jazz won where they weren't expected to - twice.

Now, the Jazz have to live up to their reputation of being one of the most difficult home teams in the NBA. Utah leads Houston 2-0 in the best-of-7 series and could end it without having to take another road trip until the next round.

Game 3 is Thursday night, when the Jazz can either move one step closer to a series sweep or allow Tracy McGrady and the Rockets a chance to pull off the same comeback Utah had a year ago against Houston.

"We go into the game knowing that both teams have seen a great deal of each other,'' Utah forward Carlos Boozer said. "Game 3 should be a dandy.''

The Rockets and Jazz met in the first round of the playoffs last season, too. Houston won the first two games at home, then came to Utah where the Jazz won 81-67 and went on to win the series in seven games.

Now instead of worrying about avoiding a sweep, the Jazz are looking at getting through the Rockets in just four games.

"It's two different scenarios - night and day,'' Boozer said. "We're already intense. It's the playoffs.''

Utah's 37-4 record at home this season was the best in the NBA, but one of those four losses was to the Rockets.

"We know we can play up there, we know we can win up there,'' McGrady said. "The playoffs are a totally different game. We can't rely on what we did in what, November or October. It's a totally different team, playing with a different confidence.''

Utah coach Jerry Sloan was his usual pessimistic self before practice Wednesday, noting that the Jazz can't expect too much of an advantage playing at home again. Sloan didn't want to talk about a possible sweep.

"I think these guys are all intelligent enough to know that we have to come and play. There's not going to be anybody that's going to give us anything,'' he said. "They were ready to play the other night. They came at us.''

Utah's objective on defense won't change from the first two games: Stop McGrady, who is facing the added pressure of another quick exit from the playoffs.

McGrady has averaged 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games and was one assist away from a triple-double in Game 2, but has scored just one point in the fourth quarter this series. McGrady is also in danger of getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round - again.

He was 0-for-6 entering this year's playoffs, still vividly remembering the way the Rockets blew a 2-0 advantage a year ago. McGrady took it out on the Jazz in Utah's home opener, when he scored 47 while leading Houston to a 106-95 win in Salt Lake City on Nov. 1.

McGrady hasn't come close to anything like that in this postseason and his teammates haven't done a lot to help as the shorthanded Rockets faded in both games after taking the lead in the second half.

"We have to find ways to help him out in the fourth quarter, get him better opportunities. They turned their defense up on him in the fourth quarter and extended it out and tried to make other people make plays,'' Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "Right now, we're at a disadvantage.''

Although the Rockets are without 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming (foot) for the rest of the season, Houston hopes to have point guard Rafer Alston back for Thursday.

Adelman wasn't sure how effective Alston could be after missing a week with a strained right hamstring, but he would provide some depth for the Rockets and 35-year-old Bobby Jackson, who has been starting for Alston.

No matter who is playing for the Rockets, the Jazz are leery of McGrady giving Houston new life.

"We wanted to take as much away from Mac as possible because he's such a great scorer and everything goes through him,'' Utah guard Deron Williams said. "To get that one (win) is crucial - and that's what we've got to try to avoid with them - allowing them to get that first win.''

Williams is still sore from a nasty fall he took on his tailbone against Denver on April 12. He re-aggravated the injury in Game 2 on Monday and said the healing progress has been slow, although not slow enough to keep him out of the series.

Williams leads the Jazz in scoring at 21 points per game and averaged 7.5 assists in the two games at Houston.

"It's getting better. If I can stop from falling on it, I'll be all right,'' he said.


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