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Utah Jazz: Rockets determined not to get pushed around

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Utah's Andrei Kirilenko wrestles the ball away from Houston's Shane Battier during the opening game of the series on Saturday.

Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko wrestles the ball away from Houston’s Shane Battier during the opening game of the series on Saturday.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

HOUSTON — The cries could be heard even before a second straight Utah-Houston first-round NBA playoff series got under way.

Beware the mean and nasty Jazz.

"We can't let them bulldog us and push us around," guard Bobby Jackson told the Houston Chronicle.

"We're going to have to be just as physical as they are," coach Rick Adelman added.

After the Jazz's 93-82 Game 1 victory Saturday night, the volume was cranked.

"They were pushing us out of the way and getting the ball," Rockets star Tracy McGrady said of Utah's early rebounding advantage.

The Rockets, small forward Shane Battier suggested at Houston's practice Sunday, must match the Jazz's hard-nosed style in tonight's Game 2.

"I think sometimes we tried to avoid the contact instead of taking the contact," Battier said, citing Houston's sub-par, inside-shooting success rate of about 45 percent.

"There's a reason why Utah's No. 1 in fouls in the league," he added with a smile. "It's because they foul. They don't apologize for it."

Battier may have been giving the Jazz more credit than they deserve, as three other teams committed more fouls per game than their 23.06 this season.

In any event ...

"So if you go strong to the hole, you're gonna get fouled," Battier said after shooting 7-of-7 himself. "You've got to be able to take the contact and still be able to finish."

Asked if the mostly undersized Rockets are capable of matching the Jazz's physicality, Battier — a Detroit-area product — hedged.

"Well, we're gonna try," he said. "I mean, we're not the biggest team. They've got some big beefy boys. I don't know what they feed 'em in Utah, but — I'm from the Midwest — those are Midwest, corn-fed hosses.

"Every time a shot goes up, you've got to crack them first before they crack you," Battier added. "Just like football. Whoever controls the offensive line usually wins the game."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan wasn't buying it before Game 1.

"I don't see our team as a physical or tough team like somebody sometime said," he said at Saturday's morning shootaround. "I think that's a ploy a lot of people use to get attention to the officials, so they can get to the free-throw a little bit more."

He wasn't biting after Game 1, either.

"I didn't see a great deal of it," Sloan said of physical play from his club.

In fact, he tried turning the tables on Houston.

"I've liked what they've done," Sloan said of this year's Rockets, "because they put some tougher guys in there and they've got some guys that really go after you.

"It's not anything dirty or anything like that. They just play hard. And it is a little more physical. But if you like to play, that's what you want to be involved with."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com