HOUSTON So much was made before the start of the ongoing Jazz-Rockets NBA playoff series about Houston having homecourt advantage.
The Jazz, after all, went a league-best 37-4 at EnergySolutions Arena but were just 17-24 on the road.
Utah won Saturday's Game 1 at Houston, however, and now heading into tonight's Game 2 here they have homecourt back.
The Rockets, in other words, must win at least one game in Utah in order to win the first-round, best-of-seven series; the Jazz can do it by winning at home in Games 3, 4 and 6 if not sooner.
"That totally changes things a little bit," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
Which is to say ... not much at all.
"For us (the mind-set) doesn't (change) because we're still here. Obviously we know we gained homecourt, but we're still in Houston," power forward Carlos Boozer said, "so for us we have to go out there with the same mentality we had going into Game 1 try to be focused and try to execute our game plan."
"We want to get the second one. We're not here to just win one game and then go home," point guard Deron Williams added. "We want to try to get this one, to put ourselves in an even-better position when we go back to Salt Lake. It puts more pressure on them."
Rockets star Tracy McGrady concurred.
"We've (won in Utah) in the regular season, but it's a totally different ballgame," McGrady said. "You know, it's a hostile environment and they play extremely well in Utah on their home floor. You don't want to go there 0-2."
SIZZLING: Hot topic at the Jazz's morning media session Sunday was Andrei Kirilenko's sizzling performance Saturday.
Kirilenko scored a team-high 21 points, shot 8-of-12 from the field, had four rebounds, dished three assists, nabbed two steals and helped hold McGrady to 7-for-21 shooting.
"He played big for them. We definitely didn't want him to get 20 points," McGrady said. "You know, he was knocking down 3s, he was taking it to the basket, posting up. He had a well-rounded game. We've got to pay more attention to him. We were so worried about DWill (Williams) and Boozer that we forgot about Kirilenko."
As Kirilenko discussed his showing Sunday, he sat in a chair at the Toyota Center that was just a few down from the one he was on when breaking down in tears of frustration during last year's Jazz-Rockets series.
When someone mentioned it, Kirilenko playfully offered to slide down illustrating just how much his mental state has improved over the past 12 months.
"I really feel way better, and I'm really in a great condition right now," the forward from Russia said. "I feel better myself.
"Definitely, I am changed," he added. "I'm taking it a little bit less serious."
Translation: Kirilenko no longer is allowing himself to be stressed by things he cannot control, like being reduced to a secondary role in the Jazz's offensive system.
"I feel way, way different as a basketball player," Kirilenko said. "I'm kind of realizing that nothing's changing in basketball part, so I need to be changed a little bit in my head."
Whatever it takes, one teammate suggested.
"It's a different Andrei this year," Boozer said.
"If we can get that kind of (Game 1) production out of him," he added, "I like our chances against anybody."
WILLIAMS IMPROVING: Williams played 44 minutes Saturday, despite a bruised rear end that remains somewhat sore.
"I kind of planned on that all along, if he's able to play," Sloan said of the extended minutes, which were seven more than Williams averaged in the regular season.
Williams was treating the injury with an electric stimulation/ultrasound device at Saturday's postgame news conference, and though he said beforehand he was "127.25 percent" he admitted to not being at full strength."It just took me a little while to warm up and get going," Williams said Sunday. "And once I did, I started feeling a little bit better and started playing a little better."
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