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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Jazz advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1998

By Tony Pizza

When the Utah Jazz traded for Derek Fisher last July, the team knew it was adding a playoff-tested veteran to its roster. The windfall of that trade continued to pay big dividends for the Jazz on Tuesday night.

It may not have been the prettiest game in team history, but the Jazz guaranteed themselves at least four more games in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. The Jazz returned to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1998 and simultaneously ended the Warriors’ fairy-tale run through the postseason with a 100-87 win at EnergySolutions Arena on Tuesday night. Andrei Kirilenko scored a playoff career-high 21 points and pulled down a playoff career-high 15 rebounds in the win.

With Golden State packing the defense into the paint area and repeatedly evaporating two five-point deficits early in the fourth quarter, the Jazz needed to extend the Warriors’ defense from the perimeter, so they called on their savvy veteran. Fisher’s response: two big 3-pointers, including three of his 20 points at the 5:45 mark that helped break the Warriors’ spirit and bolster the Jazz’s lead for good.

“This is the time of year that Fish (Fisher) has been waiting on,” Carlos Boozer said. “He talked about this late back in training camp…I’m going to tell you that the guy makes some good shots; he’s got a lot of pride and he brings it every night.”?

Game 5 started off at the same Warrior-friendly breakneck speed as Games 1 and 2. The Warriors led 32-29 at the end of the first period, and the game seemed to be headed for the same kind of barnburner that resulted in 228- and 244-point totals in Games 1 and 2, respectively.

But the Jazz pulled back the reigns on the game’s tempo midway through the game and held the Warriors to just 33 second-half points, while the Jazz scored 48 of their own to clinch the series in their first closeout opportunity of the Western Conference Semifinals.

“We just had come out and played our style. We executed well,” Deron Williams said. “It helps that (Golden State) didn’t hit some shots tonight. I’m happy for the fans, I’m happy for Larry Miller.”

But the way the Jazz slowed the game down was hardly a thing of beauty. At times it was hard to tell whether or not the Jazz were actually trying to move the series back to Oakland, as the Jazz turned the ball over 11 times in the second half.

The Warriors, however, had problems of their own and were clearly frustrated by their shooting woes and inability to stop Utah in the paint and on the boards. The Warriors’ frustrations finally boiled over at the end of the third quarter when Jazz guard Dee Brown brought the ball up the court and was issued a body check by Stephen Jackson that mildly resembled Robert Horry’s hard foul on Steve Nash at the end of Game 4 of the Spurs/Suns series.

The result was a flagrant-foul-one call on Jackson. Jackson then escalated the situation by picking up a technical foul while arguing the call, which meant three free throws for the Jazz. But Utah missed the chance to extend its four-point lead to seven by missing all three attempts from the charity stripe.

Matt Barnes added to the Warriors’ blowup as time expired in the third quarter by picking up a technical foul for swiping and trying to clear out Carlos Boozer on a rebound. The Jazz proceeded to miss the subsequent free throw.

“We missed, like, five or six free throws in a row, and in this kind of game when you have, like, four points lead…at that point in the game you feel like, ‘Gosh, we need to make it, we need to make it,”‘ Kirilenko said. “I’m very happy we didn’t give up. We put our heads down (and) we just kept playing and we won the game.”

The Jazz shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line before making 10-of-11 free throws with less than three minutes to go to put the game on ice.

Jason Richardson’s jump shot with 3:37 to go in the game got the Warriors within one (88-87), but the Jazz went on a 12-0 run against the worn-down Warriors to close the game.

The Jazz coughed the ball up 25 times, which the Warriors transformed into 29 points, but Utah significantly out-rebounded the Warriors 59-35, including a 20-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

“Utah was the better team this series. You know, we’ve got to give them credit point blank. They beat us up inside,” Jackson said. “They were the better team and they showed it. Point blank. No need for us to be bitter, we had a great year.”

Although the Warriors had 13 more attempts from the 3-point line, they managed to make just one more 3-pointer than Utah. Game 5 was the first time all season the Warriors failed to make at least 10 of their 3-point attempts.

Notes: Derek Fisher scored 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including a 4-for-5 shooting performance from beyond the arc to rebound from a 1-for-11 outing in Game 4.

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