What they're saying about the Jazz and Rockets on the Internet:
THE ROCKETS PUT aside their walking canes long enough to thrash the Jazz on Thursday night. Houston staggered Utah and stunned the Delta Center throng with a 103-90 upset victory in the playoffs opening round best-of-five series . . . History now seems to favor the Rockets. Houston is 17-0 when it wins the first game of a series. Utah lost the only five-game series it started with a loss in Salt Lake City. Barkley took his shots at all doubters. "The media and some fans are (bleeps)," he said. "All the critics said we would lose. But, we're not going to go crazy. This is just one game. Now we have a chance to go something. We don't want to concede Game 2 to them."
THE BIG QUESTION is what Utah should do for Game 2. The first two items on the agenda have nothing to do with strategy; they are "make some shots" and "play with some intensity." But on a strategic level, they also need to exploit the Rocket point guards much more than they did in Game 1. I know John Stockton thinks pass first, but he needs to be greedier when he sees Matt Maloney in front of him. Stockton torched him last year in the playoffs and needs to do the same this year. That should help the Jazz overcome some of the offensive snags they hit in Game 1. Defensively, as much as they don't want to leave the Houston 3-point shooters open, they can't just let Barkley and Willis back them down all game and score in the paint. The Jazz should concentrate on having a smaller, quicker lineup on the floor most of the time and focus on double-teaming. The Game 1 strategy of using guys like Antoine Carr to keep them at bay failed miserably, so revisions are definitely in order for Game 2. Finally, the $83,000 question: Is Utah in trouble? Not to cop out, but the answer is yes and no. Objectively, a team that loses Game 1 has more than an 80 percent chance of losing the series, so yes, there's some concern. But realistically, the Jazz still probably have too many weapons for the Rockets, and while they happened to lay an egg Thursday the five-game series means that they should eventually prevail.
THE EIGHTH-SEEDED Houston Rockets stunned the top-seeded Utah Jazz, 103-90, in their first-round series opener, as Clyde Drexler nearly outscored the defending conference champions in the pivotal third quarter, finishing with 22 points. The aging but dangerous Rockets showed they would not go away quietly and wasted no time making the Jazz's return trip to the NBA Finals a more difficult task. Houston, which eliminated Utah en route to NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, is 17-0 in playoff series after winning Game 1.
HOUSTON SURPRISED everyone by coming out and winning game 1 in Utah, with Olajuwon and Willis combining for 40 points and 30 rebounds. This just gets Malone angry though, and he comes back in game 2 with a 39 point solo game as the Jazz level the series. Back in their finals groove now, the Jazz take the next game off Houston and lead by 17 in the third quarter of Game 4. Charles Barkley comes off the bench and scores 14 of the next 16 Houston points as the Rockets cut the lead to 8, and Houston takes the lead in the last quarter after Eddie Johnson lights it up from the arc. It is not enough though, as Malone ices the game from the foul line and the Jazz take the series in 4.
THEY PLAYED THE entire NBA season to get the one edge they felt they lacked to beat the Chicago Bulls in the 1997 NBA Finals. Then Thursday night, the Utah Jazz saw every one of its 62 wins turned to meaningless footnotes when it absorbed a stunning 103-90 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series at the Delta Center.