On the eve of Game 3, Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich scoffed at the notion his team's playoff series with Utah lacked artistic quality.
"It depends on what kind of art you like," Tomjanovich said. "If you want to see some tiptoeing through the tulips, go to the Memorial Park."While splitting the first two games of their best-of-five series in the Delta Center, the Rockets and Jazz teamed for 115 fouls, including two deemed flagrant. In addition, seven technical fouls have been called and the teams have combined for 54 turnovers and 43-percent shooting from the field.
"We're doing things to try and take away their primary things, and they're doing things to take away our stuff," Tomjanovich said after what he described as a competitive and spirited 21/2-hour practice Tuesday. "So it comes down to making spot shots or some of the role players coming in and making a big play."
The bottom line, he adds, is intensity and defense as the series resumes Wednesday (7:30 p.m., MDT) in the Compaq Center. Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night.
"Game 3 is very important. It's the pivotal game. It's the game that puts one team in a do-or-die situation, and we'd sure love to get it," Tomjanovich said. "We've got to focus everything on getting it done here in Houston."
Charles Barkley says the Rockets are in prime position to "take care of business" and become just the second No.8 seed ever to win an NBA playoff series.
"We did what we have to do. We had to win a game in Utah and we accomplished that," he said. "Now all we've got to do is win two home games and the series is over."
With such hopes on the line, the Rockets were businesslike Tuesday.
"It's a willpower thing. You have to impose your will on the other team," Barkley said. "Everybody is going to make plays here and there, but I think the playoffs is just a matter of wills."
Houston's mindset remains focused on defending Utah's famed pick-and-roll. The Rockets spent a good portion of their lengthy practice devising a plan to slow Jazz stars John Stockton and Karl Malone.
"(Stockton's) the first or second option every play down the floor, so you've got to be aware of where he is; what he's trying to do; and try to snuff out the play as early as possible," Matt Maloney said. "Not only do you have to try and get through picks to guard him, but you've got to bump Karl - bump the big guys coming down the lane and setting up screens. It's got to be a lot of team defense."
Tomjanovich said his Rockets to be successful in Game 3, they'll need to keep the Jazz in a half-court offense. Otherwise, Utah finds a way to free people up and force more turn-overs.
"They key to us playing (Stockton) is we have to be aggressive," said Brent Price, who like Maloney picked up two early fouls trying to defend the Jazz guard in Game 2. The calls helped prompt an early furor that led to technical fouls on Tomjanovich and Clyde Drexler.
"If we control our emotions and not get rattled," Kevin Willis said, "we'll be all right (this time)."