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Boozer, bench lead Jazz past Rockets

Apr 27, 2007 - 6:10 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- With Carlos Boozer looking for help of any kind, the Utah Jazz's bench came through in a major way.

Boozer scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Jazz held the Houston Rockets to a franchise-low playoff points total with an 81-67 victory.

Matt Harpring scored 13 points off the bench and Deron Williams added 11 and eight assists for Utah, which cut its deficit to 2-1 in their Western Conference first-round series.

"It's important for us to get a win, get some confidence, let them know we're still here and we're not going anywhere," Williams said.

The 67 points by the Rockets is three less than the 70 they scored in Game Five of a first-round series vs. the Jazz on May 3, 1998. Utah closed out that series in five games. The points total also was one shy of Houston's all-time low.

Houston only had four players score, setting an NBA playoffs all-time low. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady combined for 50 points, but the Jazz were the aggressors on defense for most of the night. Yao turned over the ball eight times as he and McGrady combined to shoot just 15-for-39.

"You have to attack before they attack you," Jazz guard Gordan Giricek said. "That's the way to play. Try to force them to fight for every shot, because by the end of the game, they're going to lose their legs."

Utah center Mehmet Okur, who had the difficult assignment of defending Yao for most of the night, blocked four shots as he and the Jazz held him to 6-of-14 from the field.

"I'm going to find a way to score," Yao said. "They played me better tonight. I cannot push very hard on (Okur) because I know he will flop on the floor. He did one today, and for me, I just have to learn."

Boozer, who scored a playoff career-high 41 points in a 98-90 loss at Houston on Monday, received minimal support in that game from frontcourt starters Andrei Kirilenko (zero points) and Okur (four). He got little help again from the duo, which combined for nine points, but it was the reserves who really stepped up, outscoring Houston's bench, 33-0.

"They were so huge," Boozer said. "The guys really gave us a big lift, especially with (rookie Paul Millsap) coming in; he was so aggressive. If we can have that kind of production, I like our chances."

Millsap sparked Utah with eight points in the second quarter. The three-time NCAA rebounding champion entered the game with just 11 seconds left in the first period and helped Utah go on a 16-2 run, turning a 17-14 deficit into a 30-17 lead with 10:07 left in the second quarter.

Fellow reserve Giricek added seven points in the first half along with Boozer's 10 to stake Utah to a 48-42 halftime lead. Giricek finished with 10 points.

"Our bench has been big for us all year," Williams said. "We need them to even have a chance at winning."

After a cold-shooting third quarter in which both teams combined for 23 points, the Jazz entered the final period leading, 61-52.

In the fourth quarter, Houston ran off six straight points, capped by two free throws by Yao with 6:09 left that cut its deficit to 64-58.

However, the Jazz went on a 15-4 run over the next 2:51 to take a 79-62 lead, tying their largest advantage of the entire contest. Harpring had seven points during the spurt.

"For a big part of that fourth quarter, we were stuck on a 12-point lead, really couldn't put them away and couldn't score," Williams said. "But eventually, we got some rebounds, and that helped us spread the lead out."

After getting handled on the boards through the first three quarters, the Jazz dominated the final period. They shot just 27 percent in the fourth but kept the ball away from the Rockets, grabbing nine offensive boards and outrebounding Houston, 20-7.

"It's all about energy, and I think we had it tonight," Harpring said. "We focused on (getting into the paint). When we're good, we get into the lane, when we shoot free throws and we rebound. When we have those three things going for us, we're a tough team to beat."

Boozer (10-of-18 from the field), Millsap (4-of-4) and Kirilenko (1-of-2) were the only players to shoot 50 percent or better in the game.

Yao scored 26 points and hauled in 14 rebounds and McGrady added 24 points for the Rockets, who shot a miserable 33 percent (21-of-64) from the field.

"It just came down to the mentality of us making stops, playing good defense," Millsap said. "That's what we did tonight. That was our main focus all week, to try to stop them in the third and fourth quarter."

Shane Battier scored 11 points and Rafer Alston added just six for Houston, which also set records for fewest field goals (21) and least points tallied in a half (25 in the second).

"They got up and into us good," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "That's what they do. Utah is a very good team, and it responded like a good team would. They were chasing the ball down a lot harder than we were. The Jazz were running the floor with aggression."

    HOUSTON 67

    Apr 26 11:20 PM

    HOUSTON 52
    UTAH 61 END, 3RD QTR

    Apr 26 10:50 PM

    HOUSTON 42

    Apr 26 10:10 PM

    HOUSTON 17
    UTAH 23 END, 1ST QTR

    Apr 26 9:36 PM