Playing at EnergySolutions Arena had to help.
But Carlos Boozer's long reach, Kobe Bryant's cold hand and a dagger from Deron Williams was what really made the difference as the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Lakers 88-86 in Thursday night's Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series.
Boozer pulled down 22 boards, tying Karl Malone's 1989 Jazz franchise record for rebounds in a playoff game.
The two-time NBA All-Star made two free throws with 1 minute and 26 seconds remaining to put Utah — which trailed up 68-60 at the start of the fourth quarter — up 82-80.
Boozer also used a Williams-fed pick-and-roll layup to make it 84-82 with 47 seconds left, then — after Bryant tied it with a layup of his own — turned and dunked on Pau Gasol to give the Jazz an 86-84 advantage with 16.9 seconds remaining.
Gasol did answer, dunking home a pass from Bryant — who scored 18, but hit just 5-of-24 from the field — with 11.7 left.
None of the work from 23-point game-high scorer Boozer would have mattered, though, if Williams hadn't delivered the game-winner on a 14-foot fadeway jumper with 2.2 seconds to go.
"It was supposed to be a pick-and-roll between me and Booze," Williams, who finished with 13 point, said. "They had been trapping me all night, making it hard for me to find people."
"They went with me when I rolled and he had ... like, a little 5-foot area to get into," Boozer added. "He (Williams) got into it, and hit a big shot for us."
Bryant's attempted deep 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Ronnie Brewer failed to fall at the buzzer, trimming L.A.'s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1 heading into Saturday night's Game 4.
"I know he couldn't attack the basket," Brewer said. "I tried to get up on him as close as I possibly could without fouling him. And when he let it go I just turned and look, because I thought it had the potential to go in. And when it hit the side, I was super excited, because now we have a chance.
Williams drove Derek Fisher for his game-winner, crossing over with a dribble between his legs to shake the ex-Jazz guard and drifting to his right before firing over Lakers big man Lamar Odom.
"Ordinarily we keep the ball in his (Williams') hands and go," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who instead called a 20-second timeout after Gasol's dunk. "Fortunately we got it in his hands down on the other end without any problem, and he made a great shot."
It was reward for a start well-done.
After struggling at the start of both Games 1 and 2 at the Staples Center, a combination of domination on the boards and Bryant's icy shooting helped the Jazz jump to a 43-39 halftime.
Boozer had 16 rebounds and Paul Millsap, who finished with 14, 10 in the opening half alone.
Boozer's 16 were a Jazz franchise record for boards in a postseason half, surpassing Malone's 14 in '89 game against Golden State, and his new-record 11 in the first quarter surpassed Malone's old playoff record of eight in that same game.
"I'm happy for anybody if they and play that way every night," Sloan said with reference to the play of Boozer, who missed more than half the season with a surgically repaired knee.
"That's a thrill to watch those things happen."
Bryant, meanwhile, hit just 1-of-10 from the field before the break — marking the last time he's shot less than 10 percent with at least 10 attempts in a playoff half since he went 1-for-11 in the second during a 2000 NBA Finals game against Indiana.
"A lot of things didn't click for him," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
L.A. — the same team that shot 85.7 percent to start Tuesday's Game 2 — converted on just 24 percent in Game 3's initial quarter.148 comments on this story
The Lakers opened with nothing on their first five possessions, and Utah's early 12-0 run — a Boozer jumper, Andrei Kirilenko's cutting dunk, two free throws from Williams, a Boozer fadeaway and a Millsap bucket inside — gave the Jazz some separation.
Boozer used the rebound of a missed Kyle Korver 3-point attempt to put Utah up by as many as 10 late in the first quarter.
By late in the third, though, it was the Lakers who led by double digits — and only a Korver trey kept L.A., which opened the second half with a 10-0 run and led by as many as 13 in third quarter, from heading into the fourth up by 11 instead of eight.