The Utah Jazz, rallying behind the second-half shooting of Thurl Bailey and outstanding defense, beat the Rockets in Houston, 104-97, yesterday and won their first-round Western Conference series, 3-2. The Jazz advanced to meet the Nuggets in a best-of-seven set starting Tuesday in Denver.
Adrian Dantley hit six free throws and Bailey three in the final 77 seconds to seal the victory before 16,016 at the Summit.
Akeem Olajuwon scored 22 of his game-high 32 points in the second half but was offset when Bailey, held to five first-half points, got 15 in the fourth quarter.
"We just got tougher later in the game. They had their big guys in, but we managed to come down with some big rebounds," said Bailey.
Dantley, Bailey's fellow Washingtonian, led the Jazz with 25 points -- 13 of 13 from the line. Ralph Sampson had 23 for the Rockets.
Utah hit eight of 30 shots in the first quarter and twice trailed by 10, the second time at 37-27. Utah closed to 39-37 before 7-foot-4 Mark Eaton fell to the floor with 1:23 left in the half with a hyperextended knee and did not return. With Eaton out, Olajuwon took control of the middle to pace Houston to a 76-67 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Reserves Billy Paultz, Jeff Wilkins, Fred Roberts, Rich Kelley and John Stockton teamed with Bailey for much of the fourth quarter.
"Eaton's absence actually made them a better offensive team," Houston Coach Bill Fitch said.
Paultz was hit by Olajuwon and said, "Either he can't punch or I can really take a punch."
The Jazz pulled even at 89-89 and took the lead for good with 3:28 to go on Bailey's basket.