|Jazz hitting unfriendly road|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:46|
Utah's chances at getting home-court advantage in the opening round were soundly crushed by the San Antonio Spurs in a regular season finale that showed just how vulnerable the Jazz have been on the road.
Because of the 109-80 loss Wednesday, the Jazz will be opening the first round of the playoffs Saturday at Houston.
Utah was an NBA-best 37-4 at home, but just 17-24 on the road this season. The Jazz immediately faced questions Thursday about whether they can do in the postseason what they weren't able to do in 41 road games.
``The season's over. This is the playoffs. Everything is wiped clean. Everything starts over,'' point guard Deron Williams said.
The Jazz finished at 54-28 and one-game behind the Rockets in the final standings. Utah officially is the higher seed at No. 4, but the Rockets open at home because of the better record.
And the road was not a good place for the Jazz this season. The point was driven home by the Spurs in a game Utah knew would dictate the playoff schedule. The Jazz allowed San Antonio to score 30 points in the first quarter and 35 more in the second while the Spurs took a 65-39 halftime lead.
The Jazz now have to make a return trip to Texas for games Saturday and Monday to open the rematch of last year's first round. Houston won the first two games at home, but Utah rallied to win the series in seven games, finally getting a road win at the end to clinch it.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan is taking the Jazz to the playoffs for the 17th time in 20 seasons. He was disappointed with Wednesday's performance, but not to the point of being worried that Utah's road woes would carry over into the postseason.
``I'm concerned about wherever we play,'' Sloan said. ``If we lose a game, we can't let that affect us. If we win a game we can't let that affect us. We've just got to stay focused on what we've got to do. It sounds simple but it's hard to do on a consistent basis.''
Houston is one of the few places the Jazz won this season. Utah won 97-89 at the Toyota Center on Jan. 27, answering the Rockets's win at Utah in the Jazz's home opener on Nov. 1. Utah won the season series by beating the Rockets 105-96 Monday in Salt Lake City.
The Rockets closed the regular season Wednesday with a 93-75 win over the Clippers, then got to sit back and wait for Utah's loss to become official and give Houston home-court in the series.
The Rockets went unbeaten at home against the Jazz in the first three games in Houston last year in the first round, but could not beat Utah in Game 7.
Although there has been some turnover, the remaining Rockets haven't forgotten.
``Game 1 and winning on your home court is very important. We know how tough it is to win in Utah,'' Houston's Tracy McGrady, who is still trying to get his first playoff series victory. ``It's extremely tough to win up there in the playoffs. This is a very important game for us.''
The Jazz met Thursday and planned to practice Friday before making the flight to Houston for the weekend. Williams, who didn't play in the second half Wednesday because of a bruised tailbone, said he is still sore but will be ready Saturday.
Sloan said the Jazz have little choice but to forget what happened Wednesday and throughout the season on the road.
``You just have to be confident that you have to come to play wherever it is, whatever the situation,'' he said. ``If don't do that, it's an early exit like it was last night.''