OAKLAND, Calif. &
For three quarters the Utah Jazz kept pounding the ball into Carlos Boozer for easy baskets, but still trailed the Golden State Warriors with their shoot-from-anywhere approach.
The difference in Game 4 &
and possibly the series &
came when Derek Fisher provided his big man with some help down the stretch and the Warriors' 3-pointers stopped falling.
Fisher scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, Boozer dominated the middle with 34 points and 12 rebounds and the Jazz became the first road team to win at Golden State in nearly seven weeks with a 115-101 victory Sunday night that sent Utah home with a 3-1 series lead.
After his emotional, midgame return from his daughter's cancer operation fueled Utah's Game 2 comeback, Fisher delivered with his on-court performance this time. He made a pair of 3-pointers to help the Jazz pull away in the fourth quarter and move within one win of the Western Conference finals.
"I really haven't had much rhythm to my game," said Fisher, who missed all of Game — to be with his daughter. "I've been trying to get my legs back. I haven't practiced lately so it felt good to be able to step up for my teammates. This is an environment a lot of guys hadn't been in before and I'm glad I was able to use my experience to help us tonight."
Fisher was a key contributor for the Los Angeles Lakers when they won three straight NBA titles earlier this decade. The Jazz have never won it all and haven't been this close since John Stockton and Karl Malone took them to back-to-back NBA finals in 1997-98 against the Chicago Bulls.
Utah can return to the Western Conference finals for the first time since that heyday by winning Game 5 at home Tuesday night.
"We closed out the last series at Houston, so we know what it's like," Boozer said. "They're not going to make it easy for us to close them out, and we're aware of that."
The only reason Fisher was in position to hit those big fourth-quarter is because of the way Boozer dominated the first three quarters.
With his 6-foot-9, 266-pound frame, Boozer is just too strong for the undersized Warriors, who like to flood the court with athletic wing players who struggle to defend the low post.
Boozer scored 30 points in the first three quarters and shot 13-for-19 for the game, relying mostly on layups and dunks after using his big body to get good position down low. But getting the ball down low to Boozer, the Jazz were able to counter Golden State's frenetic style and 12 3-pointers that got the raucous fans riled up.
"They create a lot of problems the way they play. They speed you up," Boozer said. "They have got fans helping them, but they're a very good, very talented team. There's very few teams in the NBA that can run with them, and we're not one of them. Today we just really tried to slow it down."
The Warriors had lost only one of their previous 15 home games &
a 126-89 loss to San Antonio on March 26 &
and had outscored the opposition by an average of 16.8 points in their first four playoff games in Oakland with up-tempo offense and fan support that dazzled the nation.
But the Warriors wore down in the decisive fourth quarter, when they shot just 2-for-11 from 3-point range and missed five of their first six foul shots.
"I thought we played hard, but a little fatigue set in," said Baron Davis, who had 15 points after averaging 26.9 the first three games. "We were trying to do too much tonight and we weren't playing the team game the way we should have. We didn't make it difficult for them to defend us tonight and we didn't do a great job of defending. That's why we lost."
Al Harrington scored 24 points before fouling out and Stephen Jackson also had 24 points to lead the Warriors. Jason Richardson was held to seven points on 3-for-12 shooting and Golden State also missed 13 of 34 free throws.
"We just ran out of gas period," Jackson said. "We're human and we do get tired. Obviously, we got tired at the wrong time in the playoffs. At the same time, give credit to Utah. They did what they needed to do down the stretch."
Especially Fisher, whose 3-pointer put Utah ahead for good with 5:57 left. The veteran guard &
traded by Golden State to the Jazz last summer &
also hit a long jumper and another 3-pointer in the final minutes to silence the Oakland din.
Fisher dropped to the floor in a heap after a scary collision with Davis with 1:37 left, but eventually got up to finish the game.
Richardson was ejected for clotheslining Mehmet Okur on a drive to the basket with 37 seconds left, prompting angry shouts by both players. Okur added one last dig at the Warriors, hitting a 3-pointer when Utah had a 13-point lead and 10 seconds to play.
Afterward, both Fisher and Okur said the incidents were no cause for anger or concern. Okur said he "overreacted."
Fisher's shooting stroke, Boozer's muscle helps Utah take control
OAKLAND, Calif. &