Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images
Tracy McGrady scored 27 points and dished out seven assists to lead the Rockets to a Game 3 win.
Houston 94, Utah 9 (F)
SALT LAKE CITY, April 24 (AP) -- 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 over 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-seven 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 is Saturday back in Utah, where the Jazz were 37-4 this season. Instead of playing for a sweep, the Jazz will try to avoid doing the same thing Houston did in last year's 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 hosting 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.
Notes: Alston returned after missing four games with a strained right hamstring and made his first five shots, including three 3-pointers. ... After opening the game 9-for-29, the Jazz closed the second quarter on a 6-for-9 stretch to tie it at 44. ... Houston held Utah without a field goal for the first 5:07 of the second quarter. ... Thursday was the first time in the series Houston did not trail at halftime. ... The Jazz were 10-for-17 (59 percent) from the foul line in the first half.