Greg Ostertag (henceforth "Osterfat") was determined to wedge his wide backside out of Jerry Sloan's doghouse and make the ancient John Stockton happy. He managed to
do both as he gave his Jazz the energy to overcome a Rockets team that nailed ten trey's and led by as much as 15 in the third quarter.
"Fossil" Stockton turned 40 tonight and celebrated by dropping his usual 20 points on the Rockets. He and his partner in flop, Karla Malone (23 points, 7 boards) led Utah.
The Rockets came out smoking in this one picking up where they left off in Okland. Steve Francis looked like that first half in January when he unloaded 27 on the Jazz in the first half before being sent to the showers on some ridiculous technical fouls.
Francis finished with 24 in the first half and 32 for the game including 7 assists and 4 rebounds.
The first half, particularly the first quarter, was dominated by the Rockets. They led by as many as 15 and looked effortless on the court. Kelvin Cato (16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) continued to look impressive with dunks, blocks and even a steal that led to a full court sprint and dunk.
The Jazz closed the gap towards the end of the second quarter before Malone got whistled for an offensive foul and a technical foul with 1.2 seconds left in the half. The Rocks nailed the T and got the ball in to Francis who made a gorgeous behind-the-back move around The Fossil and nailed a rainbow three from near midcourt. Unfortunately, the buzzer sounded before the ball left his hands.
The Rocks continued their solid play in the third stretching the lead back to 15. Kenny Thomas had solid minutes again (15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks) and ran the fast break well. But, the rebounding really started to kill the Rockets.
Osterfat, who had looked horrendous in the first half, came in for the Jazz in the third and began to give them a bit of a boost. Utah outrebounded Houston 51-30 and 25-9 on the offensive glass.
The Jazz blew away the Rockets in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 33-22 and leading by as many as 7. Cuttino Mobley (28 points), who at times looked like the bumbling, overdribbling and poor shot choosing player we thought had disappeared, was terrific in the quarter helping to keep the Rockets in it with long bombs.
Mobley and Walt Williams even nailed back-to-back three's in the final minute of the game to make it a nail-biter but the Jazz hit their freebies down the stretch and the tank was on.