The Utah Jazz eliminated the Houston Rockets from the NBA playoffs on Friday, closing out their Western Conference first-round series with a 113-91 victory.
Deron Williams collected 25 points and nine assists and Mehmet Okur added 19 and 13 rebounds for the Jazz, who completed a 4-2 victory in the best-of-seven series and booked a second-round clash with the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, who swept Denver in four games.
That series will open today in Los Angeles.
The Jazz, who led by four points at half-time, took control in the third period when they outscored the Rockets 27-11.
Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, while Rockets superstar Tracy McGrady had 40 points and 10 rebounds.
Even that wasn’t enough for McGrady to break his run of playoff futility. He has never made it out of the opening round in his 11-year career.
The Rockets had rebounded from two home defeats, but still couldn’t close out the series.
Houston erased an early 19-point deficit with a rally late in the first half, but they couldn’t stay on terms after the interval.
Utah’s Williams scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half, burying a host of three-pointers in the third quarter.
McGrady, who entered the game as the series’ leading scorer but was shooting just 41 percent from the field, had his best stretch of the series in the first half, single-handedly bringing his club back. The All-Star guard scored 13 straight points to cut a 19-point deficit to just a single point.
But Houston couldn’t keep up the pace in the third quarter, when the Jazz reasserted themselves and McGrady virtually disappeared.
After a 16-point second quarter, McGrady went scoreless in the third and the Jazz pulled away.
Williams found Boozer for a basket on the opening possession of the half, then sank the first of his four third-quarter three-pointers.
By the time he finally took a breather late in the period, he had pushed the Jazz to a 17-point lead.
McGrady didn’t score his first bucket of the second half until 9:26 of the fourth, drawing a foul and converting the three-point play.
By that time, however, it was too late for the Rockets, whose injured star Yao Ming could only look on in dismay.
HAWKS SHOCK CELTICS
AFP, ATLANTA, Georgia
The upstart Atlanta Hawks shocked the Boston Celtics again on Friday to force an unlikely deciding game seven in their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Marvin Williams scored 18 points, Mike Bibby added 17 and Joe Johnson chipped in 15 for Atlanta — including a key three-pointer in a 103-100 victory over the top-seeded, star-studded Celtics.
Now the Celtics must win at home to avoid becoming the second No.1 seed to lose to the eighth seed in the first round of the playoffs in a best-of-seven series.
Kevin Garnett had 22 points and seven rebounds and fellow All-Star Ray Allen scored 20 for the Celtics, who were outscored 24-18 in the fourth quarter.
In Atlanta, the Hawks trailed by as many as 12 points. But they built fourth-quarter cushion with an impressive 10-0 scoring run midway through the period.
The Hawks dominated the paint in the surge as they drew four fouls against Boston including Paul Pierce’s sixth with 4:44 remaining.
James Posey’s 3-pointer cut the Celtics’ deficit to 100-98 with 48 seconds to play.
After Johnson sank two free throws, Kevin Garnett added an easy layup and Boston again narrowed the gap to two.