Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich wasn't talking about board work when he said his team needed to rebound in Game 3 Wednesday.
Perhaps he should have.Rebounding will likely be the key as Houston's best-of-five NBA playoff series with Utah shifts to the Compaq Center for two games. The teams are deadlocked at 1-1, and physical play is expected to heighten.
"If you think your manhood is being tested," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Just go out and get three or four more rebounds."
In Game 1, the Rockets prevailed 103-90 as their top three rebounders - Kevin Willis, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley - outrebounded Utah's best, 33-23. The Jazz bounced back to win Game 2 105-90 as Greg Ostertag, Karl Malone and Greg Foster topped the Texas trio on the glass, 26-24.
"Rebounding is just real hard work," Barkley said. "You have to be real dedicated to be good at it."
And in this series, no one is doing it any better than Willis. The Rockets forward has 26 rebounds, including seven offensive, over the first two games.
"(Rebounding) is something you must want to do," Willis said. "It's all about position and timing, not who jumps the highest. And it's def-initely physical."
Welcome to Game 3.
"We have to make (the Jazz) react to us and be aggressive," Tom-janovich said after the Rockets practiced in more familiar surroundings Monday.
Veteran Eddie Johnson echoed the thoughts of several of his teammates in hoping the friendly atmosphere will allow Houston to become just the second No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history ever to win a series.
"I think it's key for our fans to come with clear minds and clear throats - do a lot of screaming, be active for 48 minutes and give us an opportunity to win a ballgame," Johnson said. "They're going to be much needed."
Barkley predicted the winner Wednesday would clinch the first-round series Friday. Unless, he said with a smile, Utah won Game 3.