Rockets take 3-2 lead in series

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

HOUSTON - A change of scenery was just what the Houston Rockets needed to regain control of their playoff series with Utah.

Tracy McGrady had 26 points and a career-high 16 assists, and the Rockets beat the Jazz 96-92 on Monday night to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Yao Ming scored 21 points, sealing the victory with two free throws with 11 seconds left. Yao also grabbed 15 rebounds, the last one in the closing seconds after Deron Williams missed a desperation 3-pointer.

Back home after two lethargic losses in Utah, the Rockets rediscovered their shooting touch, going 35-for-75 from the field (47 percent) and 12-for-24 from 3-point range. They also outrebounded Utah 42-39.

The Rockets can clinch their first postseason series victory since 1997 in Game 6 on Thursday in Utah. Utah dominated the first two games there and hasn't lost to Houston at home since March 2005.

Carlos Boozer scored 26 points but had only eight rebounds, denied a double-double for the first time in the series. Derek Fisher added 17 and Williams had 13 for the Jazz, who've lost three straight Game 6s.

Utah's last win in a Game 6 was a 103-100 victory over Houston in the 1997 Western Conference finals.

McGrady left the game in the first quarter with a hip pointer, but came back to score 20 in the final three quarters. He hit 11 of 25 shots and also grabbed four rebounds.

From the start, McGrady was more aggressive driving to the basket than he was in Utah.

He was fouled with 3:09 left in the first quarter, then drove for another layup with 2:40 left. A minute later, he was bending over, clutching his right side and asking coach Jeff Van Gundy to call a timeout.

McGrady limped off the floor with 1:14 left in the quarter, then went to the locker room with trainer Keith Jones, an ominous sign for the Rockets. McGrady missed 44 games over the last two regular seasons, mostly because of back problems, and Houston lost 35 of them.

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