Boozer helps Jazz eliminate RocketsMay 6, 2007 - 7:01 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The Tracy McGrady curse lives on.
Carlos Boozer scored 35 points and the Utah Jazz regrouped in the final six minutes after blowing a big lead to defeat the Houston Rockets, 103-99, in Game Seven of their first-round series.
Deron Williams added 20 points and 14 assists for the fifth-seeded Jazz advanced past the first round for the first time since 2002 and will play the surprising eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals that begin Monday in Utah.
"I don't think it ... slipped away (from us in the fourth)," Boozer said. "They played really well. But we stayed composed instead of backing down like the previous games in Houston. To win Game 7 on the road in a hostile environment, we're going to grow up a lot from that. It was hard, especially with losing the past three games here."
The Jazz shot 51 percent (40-of-78) for the game, which added up to another agonizing postseason exit for Rockets superstar McGrady, who is now 0-for-6 in the postseason in his career.
"Right now it's a lot of hurt. We put so much into the season," McGrady said. "You fight and grind it out when you're not feeling well, get into the playoffs, put ourselves in a great position to do something really special with the type of season that we had. We faced a great team, well-coached and well-disciplined. I think it was just their execution."
McGrady scored 29 points, matching the total of teammate Yao Ming, but he managed just one basket in the final six minutes after helping Houston rally from 16 points down to take an 88-83 lead with 6:09 to play.
"Coach made some timely substitutions as far as giving McGrady different looks," Jazz guard Derek Fisher said.
The Jazz were a model of precision in the opening half, leading by as many as 16 points and shooting 58 percent (22-of-38).
Houston closed within 75-67 after three periods and finally pulled even when Rafer Alston banked a 3-pointer in to tie it at 80-80 with 8:38 to play.
Four free throws by Yao, who had 15 points in the final 12 minutes, and back-to-back baskets by McGrady stretched the advantage to 88-83 on a short jumper and the Rockets seemed poised to break it open.
Instead, the Jazz stormed back with an 8-0 run as Boozer sandwiched five points around a 3-pointer by Andrei Kirilenko for a 91-88 lead with 4:15 to go.
"I don't think that fatigue had anything to do (with losing the lead)," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We had a turnover, then Kirilenko made a three."
"We made stops when we needed them," Williams said. "We didn't let the game get away from us. We took it."
After Yao tied it with a three-point play, Mehmet Okur, who had been a non-factor for most of the series, buried a 3-pointer for a 94-91 lead with 3:23 left and hit another 3-pointer from almost the identical spot to make it 99-95 with 1:16 left.
"We learned from out last game (here)," Okur said. "That game slipped through our fingers. We were active on the glass. The last home game my confidence got back. My teammates kept telling me, 'Shoot it, shoot it.' They got my back. I was ready."
Two free throws by Yao cut the deficit to 99-97 with 57 seconds left. Okur missed consecutive 3-pointers, but the Jazz got the offensive rebound both times and it paid off when Boozer converted two foul shots following another offensive rebound with 19.9 to play.
"I just tried to attack the glass," Boozer said. "At that time it seemed like every play could have been the clincher. That was a big play."
McGrady drove for an uncontested layup with 9.9 seconds left to get the deficit to 101-99, but the Rockets inexplicably failed to foul until 1.7 ticks were left.
"There's no good explanation for that," Van Gundy said. "It's a huge disappointment."
Kirilenko buried both foul shots to clinch it as the home team failed to win for the first time in the series.
"Our defense was very porous. They shot more than 50 percent and you're not going to win too many games giving up more than 50 percent from the field," Houston's Shane Battier said. "We wanted to bring that number down, get some early baskets and get to the free-throw line, and we did a better job in the second half.
"We didn't do a very good job of securing the rebound. There were a lot of long rebounds and when the game is on the line, it's a free for all. We were on the short end and that really hurt our chances."
Reserve Gordan Giricek scored the final five points of the opening quarter, including a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left, for a 29-22 lead and the Jazz carried the momentum into the second quarter.
Williams had seven points in an 11-2 run, which he capped with a 3-pointer, to help Utah build a 40-24 lead with 7 1/2 minutes to go in the half.
"I was scared we might lose our energy," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We kept working hard. Our guys executed our offense fairly well. We were able to stay with it when things got tough out there."
The Rockets charged back with a 13-2 run as Battier connected twice from the arc and Alston hit one 3-pointer to get within 45-41 with 1:49 left.
Boozer and Williams answered by splitting eight points to give Utah a 53-43 halftime lead. Boozer had 17 points and Williams 15 at the break.
"I was playing aggressive tonight, trying to put my stamp on the game early," Williams said.
HOUSTON 99 FINAL
May 6 12:11 AM
HOUSTON 67 END, 3RD QTR
May 5 11:29 PM
HOUSTON 43 HALFTIME
May 5 10:40 PM
HOUSTON 22 END, 1ST QTR
May 5 10:07 PM
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