75 - 84 Final
  for this game

Yao, McGrady lead Rockets in series opener vs. Jazz

Apr 22, 2007 - 6:26 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady came to the aid of teammate Yao Ming at the right time.

Yao had 28 points and 13 rebounds and McGrady scored 22 second-half points as the Rockets posted an 84-75 triumph over the Utah Jazz in Game One of a Western Conference first-round matchup.

Rafer Alston had nine points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Houston, which overcame a lackluster 39-percent shooting (27-of-69) effort.

Houston trailed, 42-33, at the intermission due largely to the lack of offensive production by McGrady, who was held to just one point on 0-of-6 shooting - a career postseason first-half low.

"They came out more relaxed and we were kind of uptight," McGrady said. "I couldn't get anything going I wanted it so bad."

"Sometimes when you want something so badly, it works against you," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I think that's what happened the first half."

However, McGrady regained his All-Star form in the third period, scoring 16 points, highlighted by a deep pull-up from the top of the key with 10 seconds left to cap an 18-4 burst and help Houston take a 59-53 lead into the decisive quarter.

"I told myself at halftime to calm down. Take some deep breaths," McGrady said. "They were taking everything away, making everything tough. When I made my first couple of jumpers I knew I was going to get it rolling. I was going to take more shots, take difficult shots. My team needed me more than ever."

"Obviously, McGrady had a big second half," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We were doing the best we could because he's a terrific player and he makes it more difficult to guard him."

A seven-time All-Star and two-time scoring champ, McGrady went 8-of-17, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and handed out seven assists.

"Tracy caught his rhythm in the third quarter and that is going to happen to great players," Jazz forward Matt Harpring said. "What makes Houston such a good team is that they have two great players that you have to try and stop."

Utah pulled within 65-63 on Harpring's driving layup at the 8:27 mark. He finished with 14 points and eight boards off the bench prior to fouling out later.

"It's a tough loss. I thought we had the game in the first half," Harpring said. "In the third quarter we couldn't hit a shot and they got their confidence going. It was a little bit of an off night for us, but I feel we're are confident we can beat this team."

The Rockets pulled away for good as Alston and Luther Head hit back-to-back 3-pointers, sparking an impressive 15-3 surge to push the lead to 80-66 with 3:33 remaining.

Two quick 3-pointers by Derek Fisher helped Utah cut the deficit to 80-74 with 32 seconds left, but McGrady split a pair of foul shots to seal the victory.

In his first playoff contest, Deron Williams recorded 15 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and Fisher also scored 15 for the Utah, which shot 35 percent (34-of-87) and fell to 13-14 all-time in the playoffs vs. Houston.

"We missed shots. We had good looks at the basket," Sloan said. "We just missed some shots. We missed some free throws. We got good looks at the basket and we're not going to get as many layups, obviously, because of their size. They're a great defensive team and they put a lot of pressure on you."

All-Star Carlos Boozer struggled with just 11 points but did pull down 12 boards for the Jazz.

In a surprise move in the first quarter, Van Gundy had his club start with a 2-3 zone defense to keep Yao from getting caught up in pick-and-rolls with the more mobile Mehmet Okur.

"We're asking Yao to help protect against the pick-and-roll," Alston said. "It seems like it's going to be a grind-it-out series. They're a hard-nosed, physical team."

    UTAH 75

    Apr 22 12:06 AM

    UTAH 53

    Apr 21 11:24 PM

    UTAH 42

    Apr 21 10:40 PM

    UTAH 19

    Apr 21 10:07 PM