Rockets Sputter as In-Tune Jazz Advances to Face Bulls in Finals

HOUSTON, Texas -- The magic didn't work this time for the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets, masters of the clutch victory, had won 11 of their previous 13 games when facing playoff elimination. This time, the Utah Jazz, trailing 90-77 with 6:46 to play, charged back to beat the Rockets 103-100 Thursday night.

"We should have controlled that game,'' said Rockets guard Mario Elie. "We let them stick around and Stockton made two big plays, and now we're on vacation.''

John Stockton hit a 3-point basket at the buzzer as the Jazz denied the Rockets a chance at their third trip to the NBA finals in the last four years.

"This series didn't come down to that one shot,'' Houston's Charles Barkley said. "They were the best team in the West all season. I'll be a man -- we lost to a better team.''

The Jazz took the series 4-2 by getting the first road victory in the series.

The Rockets took the early lead with a 15-1 late first-quarter run and led 49-43 at halftime before the Jazz came back in the final minutes.

The Rockets beat the Jazz in the playoffs in both of their championship years of 1994 and 1995.

"The bottom line is we didn't make the plays we made all year,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We either didn't get the shot off, turnover or missed the shot and they went down and scored. When you make a mistake they make you pay.''

The loss meant another year without a championship ring for Barkley, who came to the Rockets in a huge offseason trade that was supposed to return the Rockets to the finals.

Utah faces the Chicago Bulls in the best-of-seven NBA finals starting Sunday.