A storm swirling around them.
A place where insanity happens.
An overwhelmingly favorable environment for the home team that edged, at times, toward . . . let's see, what's the best way to describe it? How about . . . fury making love to tumult.
The building rocked all night long, then, as the Jazz made their attempt to take a 3-zip lead over their supposedly beleaguered opponents from H-Town.
The key words there being attempt and supposedly.
Final numbers on the board: Rockets 94, Jazz 92.
"It was a start back tonight," Tracy McGrady said.
It also was a brutally difficult game, at the beginning, at the end. Particularly in the second half, the fans could barely stop to exhale. They screamed their guts out, possession by possession, but the Rockets, to their credit, showed more heart straight through the racket here than they ever displayed in the first two games in Houston.
They fought tough and closed strong.
As loud and formidable as ESA had been throughout the regular season, helping the Jazz to a league best 37-4 home record, it blew past former standards in the Jazz's first playoff game.
And by "it," of course, we mean "they," as in the nearly 20,000 raucous fans who jammed the place and perpetuated the notion that Jazz partisans are among the loudest and, according to some, meanest in the NBA.
All of that boded well for what the Jazz were trying to get done against the Rockets this time.
At the end, though, it didn't matter.
McGrady and Bobby Jackson were already aware of the problems presented by playing in Salt Lake City, having addressed the issue before the tip went up in Game 3.
Jackson called Jazz fans "hecklers," which is a compliment compared with what others have labeled them.
"People talk junk all the time," he said. "They're loud and into the game, every play. They're very emotional."
McGrady said ESA is a "hostile environment," and that Jazz fans call out "disrespectful" and "offensive" words there.
"In every game, we've been playing from behind," he said. "In this building, we can't do that."
No, they couldn't. And, for the most part, they didn't.
So those fans already had gotten inside the Rockets' heads before the screaming started and continued on late into Thursday night, right?
The Rockets didn't look bothered. Instead, they appeared invigorated.
Once the commotion commenced for real, the Jazz hung on for dear life to no avail.
Deron Williams, among other players, had said the Jazz were not cocky or fat-headed, regardless of the advantageous circumstances, and that they were taking nothing for granted in this playoff set that had business yet undone.
That business rolled out thusly in Game 3 . . .
Most of the first half was a mess for the Jazz, when they played their worst offensive basketball of the series. Midway through the second quarter, they had hit 9 of 29 shots from the field, and just 8 of 13 from the line.
They struggled from the line all night.
If not for Williams, who scored 21 of his team's 44 points in the half, the Jazz would have been dead meat. The interior offense did not exist.
Somehow, mostly by way of the point guard, and some scrappy team defense, the Jazz managed to tie the score just before the break.
The crowd did everything it could to lift its team, and the Jazz needed every bit of energy offered up to them.
The Rockets, meanwhile, benefited from the return of Rafer Alston, out with a bad hammy until Thursday night, who got 11 points in the first quarter, making 3 of 3 from three. And Houston deserves praise for limiting Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, and Paul Millsap to a combined 11 points over the first 24 minutes.
The second half saw the Jazz pull painstakingly ahead, bit by bit by bit. But the Rockets hovered close, and ultimately prevailed.
What a game. What an effort by the visitors.
EnergySolutions is where insanity happens, all right, but nobody had this in mind.
* GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at email@example.com.