Game 4 of the Jazz-Houston Rockets first-round NBA playoff series ended at 11:23 p.m. Saturday night.

But the gamesmanship — and even some internal bickering, on Houston's part — continued well past midnight.

It unfolded at the postgame news conference table in EnergySolutions Arena, where Houston Rockets head coach Rick Adelman took the microphone shortly after a Utah victory that put the Jazz up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Adelman, his team on the brink of elimination, didn't waste much time before making a plea obviously intended to influence Tuesday night's Game 5 in Houston.

"We have to find a way," he said, "where maybe somehow, some way, they call it a little bit closer with the guys guarding (Rockets star) Tracy (McGrady)."

McGrady finished with 23 points in Game 4, but he took just one shot from the field in the fourth quarter.

Some of the burden for countering Utah's relative effectiveness on McGrady, Adelman did concede, rests with the Rockets.

"That hurts us, you know, when it's that physical," said Adelman, who suggested the Jazz's game plan was to "beat up" McGrady. "But we've got to find a way to respond to it.

"When a team is physical like Utah is, and they get after you, you can't panic. You really have to use your teammates," he added. "There were times I thought we really dribbled the clock out. You know, we kept it in one guys' hands for 15 seconds. I mean, you've got to make that team move defensively, and we didn't do that enough."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who did not practice his club or address the media on Sunday, followed Adelman.

His best move was an attempted table flip.

"They're not gonna give it you. I'll tell you that right now," Sloan said. "You go to their place, they're gonna knock you around all night long and see if you can stand up to it. I think it's good basketball, myself. I like to see guys battle a little bit."

Then it was McGrady's turn.

First he commended the Jazz's physical defense. Then he reversed field, and discredited it.

"It wasn't effective at all," he said. "I was still pushing through it, getting my shots, making things happen."

Confused?

That was only the beginning.

McGrady also threw Adelman under the bus for his coaching decision on a late-game play in which Jazz point guard Deron Williams, with Utah up by just two and 7.3 seconds remaining, missed two free throws.

Jazz center Mehmet Okur wound up with the rebound of Williams' second miss and was fouled as he fell to the floor, allowing him to seal the game with two made freebies.

"I came from the weak side," McGrady said. "I hit the ball off the glass, and I think (teammate) Carl (Landry) mistimed it and Okur just came over and got the rebound. It was a big rebound that we didn't get.

"I felt like that was a point where (7-foot-2 Rockets center) Dikembe (Mutombo) should have been in the game for the rebound and for that position," he added, "because we were going to call a timeout if we would have got the rebound or if he (Williams) would have hit a free throw."

Asked why Mutombo was not used, McGrady said, "I don't know. I really don't know. Has Coach been up here yet? Y'all can ask him that question."

(Adelman's earlier response: "The first thing I thought of, even when (Williams) was shooting the second one, is 'you get a big in the game.' But our most athletic guys were on the floor at that point, and if (Williams) made it I might have just pushed it and tried to look for a 3 at the other end. He missed it, and you second-guess yourself all the time.")

Before exiting, McGrady also took a perhaps-playful but ultimately disrespectful dig at Williams, suggesting he wasn't sure how to pronounce his name.

"What is it?" he asked. " 'DARE-in?' 'Da-RON?'"

Williams followed McGrady at the microphone, and immediately dismissed the dis.

"It doesn't matter, man," the Jazz point said. "A lot of people don't know how to pronounce my first name."

Williams also reacted to McGrady's frustration throughout the series.

"I'm definitely glad T-Mac said he had no legs," he said. "That's our game plan: to try to wear him out, and I thought guys did a good job on him again.

"He's gonna get his points," Williams added, "but as long as we make it as tough as possible to where he can't take over as much in the fourth (quarter), we're happy."

With that, the stage was set for Tuesday.

The game beyond the game was done, and — with one parting shot — Game 5 awaits.

"I think it's gonna be tough for them to beat us three times in a row," Williams said, "but stranger things have happened, so we've got to get ready to try to close it out in Houston and not come back home."


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