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Jazz try to close out Rockets at home

Jazz try to close out Rockets at home

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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The playoff series the Utah Jazz appeared to have firmly in their control could be teetering.

The Jazz host the Houston Rockets on Friday in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series. Utah leads 3-2 and is just one victory away from advancing to the second round, but the Jazz are also only one loss away from a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Houston.

"We have home-court advantage right now and we don't want to lose it. We need to treat it really like Game 7," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said.

The Rockets not only staved off elimination by winning Game 5, they did it by dominating more than either team had through the first four games. The 95-69 win Tuesday was an example of how quickly Tracy McGrady and the Rockets can pull away in a game.

The Jazz know it could also be pivotal in a series they have led 2-0 and then 3-1.

"They're just playing better and better every game. That's where we've got to be concerned," guard Deron Williams said. "After those first two losses, it seems like they're a different team -- a more determined team."

One thing in the Jazz's favor is they haven't had trouble regrouping after losses this season. Utah has not lost back-to-back games since the end of December.

That could easily change if the Jazz play like they did Tuesday. The Jazz have gone 58-for-146 over the past two games, making only two of 23 3-pointers. On Tuesday, the Jazz were 27-for-74 and committed 18 turnovers while scoring the fewest points they have all season.

With the woeful outside shooting, Houston has been able to back off a little on defense and focus more on shutting down the Jazz in the paint.

The shots that went in earlier in the series haven't been going in lately.

"Let's not concentrate on that. Let's get inside," Kirilenko said. "We've never been like such a great team from the 3. We've always been successful from the paint."

Utah still leads the series and has a chance to clinch at home, but the Rockets are unlikely to be rattled by the rowdy fans that cheered on the Jazz to a 37-4 home record during the regular season. Houston split the two games here last week and is one of the few teams to win in EnergySolutions Arena during the regular season.

"This is going to be their best shot. They really think they have to win this game," Houston coach Rick Adelman said.

McGrady had his left knee wrapped during a light practice Thursday in Houston. He said the soreness that kept him out of 12 games midway through the season has returned, although it didn't seem to slow him much as he scored 29 on Tuesday.

For a team that won 22 in a row this season, a three-game winning streak sounds quite possible, even with the pressure of having the season on the line.

"We've stayed confident. When we were down 3-1, we were confident. We never lose our confidence. We feel that we can win in that building," McGrady said.

If Houston wins Friday, the Rockets will host the Jazz in a Game 7 for the second straight year. Utah came up with a road win and advanced a year ago, but having to repeat that would be daunting.

"It'd be great for us if we could come back with a game. That means Game 7 is on our home court and we get a chance to redeem ourselves (from last year)," McGrady said.

Despite any confidence the Rockets gained Tuesday, they are still playing an elimination game. If the Jazz win, they will be headed to Los Angeles to start the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers on Sunday.

The Jazz know they had a lackluster outing in a game the could have ended the series. They still have home-court advantage, thanks to opening the series with two wins at Houston and don't want to give it back to the Rockets.

"You've got to take care of it when you have the opportunity for it. You can't say 'well we'll get them next game,"' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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