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Rockets Healthier After Getting a Booster Shot

NBA playoffs: Johnson's game-winning three-point basket gives his team momentum going into Game 5 tonight.

May 27, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — While the debate continued in Houston as to whether Eddie Johnson will have an entire interstate named for him or just a boulevard, the Utah Jazz had no such options. Moving on is the only thing left to do.

The task tonight is not merely to get up for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at the Delta Center, but to get up off the floor. Johnson's three-pointer at the buzzer Sunday gave the Houston Rockets the win, a 2-2 series tie and momentum.

"Emotionally," said Clyde Drexler of the Rockets, "that's the kind of shot that gives you a lift and puts a damper on the other team's spirits."

Not to mention their schedules. The Jazz, having left here last Thursday with a 2-0 lead, had no intended to come back with anything less than the chance to clinch the series at home. The series was supposed to be on the line tonight.

On the other hand, maybe it is. Utah is a veteran team, perhaps with more composure than anyone in the league, but the Rockets are the hot team. So Utah either wins or faces the possibility that Thursday back at the Summit could be its last stand.

Johnson's shot came less than 48 hours after he scored a game-high 31 points off the bench, which equals the biggest output by any Rocket in the playoffs.

Now it's up to the Jazz to prove that Johnson's big shot in Game 4 wasn't devastating.

"I think we still have to play at least two games," Utah Coach Jerry Sloan said. "You hope that [basket] doesn't bother you. If you can't come back from a shot that's already been made, you need to be stronger than that. Our guys have always bounced back.

"When the game is over, I worry about the next game. Like I tell the players, 'play the game forward, don't play it backward.' "

Houston's Kevin Willis said, "That put some fear in their hearts. They'll think about that shot and think about that shot like, 'Oh, man.' "

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